The Buffalo News and its Paywall
In a column published online last night, Buffalo News editor-in-chief Margaret Sullivan announced that, beginning in the Fall, the Buffalo News will shunt much of its content behind a paywall. People who don’t subscribe to the print edition will be automatically given a digital subscription, and digital-only subscriptions will cost $2.50/week. If you don’t subscribe, you’ll get access to breaking news, classifieds, obits, “breaking news”, the “home page”, and 10 stories per month, using something similar to the New York Times model.
I’m not a current subscriber, and haven’t bought a copy of the News in months. But I do check the website at least once a day, but I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll buy a subscription. I think that this change provides a unique opportunity for a free daily news entity to be developed in Buffalo, perhaps along the lines of a model called a “Local Media House“. The model relies on a democratized newsroom, technology, mobile site access, good design, experimentation on the web, and strategic partnerships with other media outlets. The print product is a tabloid – not a broadsheet – “content is king, and design is queen”, they say in these Scandinavian outlets, which are doing remarkably well in a quickly changing news landscape.
Is the Buffalo News still relevant to you on a daily basis? Do you subscribe? Do you read it every day, or just when you’re alerted to something interesting or newsworthy? Are any of the columns must-read? Features? Sports? Does the separation between the Buffalo News and Buffalo.com confuse you as much as it does me?
UPDATE: The details of the paywall are now online, and several Buffalo News Tweeters are out defending this decision. Here are some things to consider:
1. Author Jeff Jarvis has this to say about the perils of the paywall – the internet is about eyeballs, relationships, interaction, and Googlejuice. A paywall does harm to all of those things and imposes a print model on a digital product.
2. The price to buy a paper copy of the Buffalo News – an item that has been printed by a state-of-the-art machine, manned by several people, and then bundled onto trucks and distributed throughout the area – costs 75¢. If you are not a subscriber and want one-day, pay-as-you-go, access to a single day of the digital Buffalo News – a product that no one prints or physically delivers – will cost you 99¢.
3. Here are some selected Twitter reactions:
[<a href=”http://storify.com/buffalopundit/the-buffalo-news-paywall-early-reax” target=”_blank”>View the story “The Buffalo News’ Paywall: Early Reax” on Storify</a>]<h1>The Buffalo News’ Paywall: Early Reax</h1><h2>The Buffalo News today announced that it would erect a paywall starting this Fall. Here’s what people on Twitter had to say about it this morning. </h2><p>Storified by Alan Bedenko · Fri, Jun 15 2012 09:50:00</p><div>May sound odd, but I’m looking forward to supporting the paper’s future by paying for online news. @JaySkurski @Sulliview @TheBuffaloNewsMatt Sabuda</div><div>Don’t see myself paying for ANY news online, even if it’s local. http://www.buffalonews.com/editorial-page/columns/margaret-sullivan/article904114.ece #BuffaloPhil Ciallela</div><div>@Sulliview @TheBuffaloNews That is a reposition for abject failure if you think people are going to pay to read that online.boner shorts</div><div>"The Courier Express shall rise from the ashes of The Buffalo News’ post-paywall collapse!" says Jimmy Griffin’s ghost…Thomas Dolina</div><div>RT @capsworth: @BNHarrington @Sulliview @JaySkurski Makes sense. A fair price for a great product. This Buffalo native will be subscribing here in Philly.Mike Harrington</div><div>RT @rachbarnhart: Buffalo News announces paywall http://bit.ly/MbhBMR @sulliview – Don’t reflect fact we get news from multiple sources, can’t pay 5 papersHoward Owens</div><div>I give the Buffalo News pay wall 6 months before its goneChaz Adams</div><div>I am shocked, *shocked* to find that journalism costs money to produce. To think!colindabkowski</div><div>Based on my feed, not too many people happy with the Buffalo News decision to charge for online content.Robert Harding</div><div>Unsurprising: @Sulliview announces paywall for @TheBuffaloNews http://www.buffalonews.com/editorial-page/columns/margaret-sullivan/article904114.eceHoward Owens</div><div>The new Buffalo News digital subscription is going to be even more expensive than The New York Times. Not worth it at half the price.T. Glanowski</div><div>The Buffalo News is dead. Who’s going to pay for digital access to a crap paper? You don’t even get coupons. http://goo.gl/QbXGR #fbJames G. Milles</div><div>In the Buff News today: paid subscriptions to get full web access. The journal is FREE online, subscription or no! http://ow.ly/bBeUbSpringville Journal</div><div>#Buffalo News announces paywall, offers unique opportunity for alternative free online daily. http://www.buffalonews.com/editorial-page/columns/margaret-sullivan/article904114.eceAlan Bedenko</div>