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Paid Online News Venture Fails To Get Subscribers

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the it-seemed-different-on-paper dept.

The Media 126

Ian Lamont writes "The idea of migrating people from free online news content to paid subscriptions has been dealt a blow. A venture meant to fill the void left by the print Rocky Mountain Times has attracted 3,000 subscribers — just 6% of its original goal of reaching 50,000 paid subscribers by Thursday. is currently free, but the plan was to have gated premium content starting next month for a $5/month subscription. The project has entrepreneurial backing and articles from journalists who used to work for the print-focused Rocky Mountain News, which closed last month. However, a lack of paying subscribers and low online ad rates means that the venture might have to scale back its ambitions."

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Not the Times (5, Informative)

Laser_47 (234412) | more than 5 years ago | (#27694809)

It was the Rocky Mountain News that shut down...

Re:Not the Times (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27695183)

Fuck you up the ass with a large nigger [] penis.

In fact I'm going to chop a penis off one of my niggers right now and find my harness.

Because... (0, Redundant)

detox.method() (1413497) | more than 5 years ago | (#27694815)

...paying for something that is already free seems like a good business model.

Re:Because... (3, Insightful)

snowraver1 (1052510) | more than 5 years ago | (#27694915)

Hmm, Oxygen bar anyone? How about bottled water? Selling stuff that has been free in the past can pay off.

Re:Because... (1)

camg188 (932324) | more than 5 years ago | (#27697685)

They just need to figure out how to make paying for online news cool and trendy.

Re:Because... (1)

spasm (79260) | more than 5 years ago | (#27698223)

The oxygen bar in San Francisco started selling sushi as well. then alcohol. then went out of business. Now it's a rapidly failing wine bar.

Re:Because... (1)

Divebus (860563) | more than 5 years ago | (#27694967)

...because... DUH!

Re:Because... (2, Interesting)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695573)

While I agree in part with this sentiment, I think there is room for paid content on sites.

Case in point, if you subscribe to New Scientist you get access to their full online articles. Not all are truncated, but there are some very juicy articles that are. There's also the Slashdot model that is in use on many other sites - articles are free, but are delayed and have ads for non-subscribers. Both methods seem to work, the first because you still get hard print, the second because people are always going to want to get the news first.

Unfortunately, in this day and age, if you're not offering free NEWS, as opposed to editorial articles, people won't pay. If the papers aren't willing to change their business model they won't survive, which is pretty much what we see happening with a lot of media lately.

I'm actually convinced that the broken model is... (1)

zonky (1153039) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695635)

Advertising, not content delivery.

The model of advertising was in the past that "50% of your advertising was ineffective, but you don't know which 50% that is".

With internet advertising you have direct clicking actually showing results without any ambiguity. You know the cost/value of any advert.

So the rationalisation is happening around 'presence' advertising, which is simply disappearing from the marketplace. That is impacting the newspapers, content brokers who were makign their living on the 50% wastage....

Re:I'm actually convinced that the broken model is (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27697619)

With internet advertising you have direct clicking actually showing results without any ambiguity. You know the cost/value of any advert.

It's people like you, who have no clue about advertising, which are responsible for the current advertising problem.

Most people will respond to an advertisement after they've seen it X number of times, where X is between 3 and 5.

According to your idiotic opinion, the first 2-4 views have zero value (because there was no click) - however if they didn't see them, then the actual response will never happen.

Think about it: how many TV advertisements are based on people stopping *everything* they're doing and rushing out to buy the product? Exactly zero. Why? because people would never actually do that. Why is the internet so different?

Just because we can measure that someone responded to an ad, it doesn't mean that their lack of response to the other ads was a measure of disinterest.

Re:Because... (1)

Gerzel (240421) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695831)

Except it isn't free.

Most Journalists don't work for free.
Editors don't work for free.
Bandwidth be it electronic or dead tree isn't free.

The cost simply hasn't been pushed directly onto the consumer, and instead people have gotten used to a strictly indirect approach(ie ads).

Re:Because... (1)

Tuqui (96668) | more than 5 years ago | (#27697357)

The cost simply hasn't been pushed directly onto the consumer, and instead people have gotten used to a strictly indirect approach(ie ads).

But the newspaper model is the same, the price you pay for a newpaper can not pay the costs. The ADs pay the costs.

Because...A blow by blow account. (1)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 5 years ago | (#27696027)

...paying for something that is already free seems like a good business model.

Well masturbation's free and yet people will frequent hookers.

oblig. (5, Interesting)

Icegryphon (715550) | more than 5 years ago | (#27694863)

I am just going to leave this here. Clicky []

Re:oblig. (1)

Jason Earl (1894) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695159)

I wish I had mod points. That clip was pure awesome.

Re:oblig. (5, Funny)

igny (716218) | more than 5 years ago | (#27696453)

I had the mod points, but I was unable to spend them for that post was modded to the max. So I am posting a reply to help the fellow modders who are now wondering how to spend their points. Do not worry the fellow modders, if this post gets modded to the max I will reply again.

Re:oblig. (2, Funny)

robot_love (1089921) | more than 5 years ago | (#27698227)

I'll believe that when I see it!

Re:oblig. (2, Funny)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695447)

That's fantastic! And not hideously technically inaccurate, which amazed me.

Re:oblig. (1)

slashtivus (1162793) | more than 5 years ago | (#27696833)

Wow, the one interviewee even had the caption "Home Computer Owner" under his name!

And 2 hours ($10.00) to download a text-only edition. How far we have come.

Trash-80! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27697359)

Trash-80's FTW!

Re:oblig. (4, Insightful)

5of0 (935391) | more than 5 years ago | (#27698047)

Best quote from the piece:
"This is only the first step in newspapers by computer. Engineers now predict the day will come when we get all our newspapers and magazines by home computer, but that's a few years off. So for the moment at least, this fellow [showing an elderly newspaper street vendor] isn't worried about being out of a job."
They were about 30 years off of their "a few years" estimate, but it is still eerie actually hearing such a prediction from nearly three decades ago voiced by a newsperson.

It's always the same story (4, Insightful)

timster (32400) | more than 5 years ago | (#27694867)

It's been almost a law of Internet content for a while. If you charge for content and lock it down, you can make some money here and there, but almost all the time you'll make more overall if you don't charge, attract way, way more readers, and sell ads. Of course, making "more" doesn't mean you'll be making "much", but so it goes.

It's the lockdown paradox.. (5, Insightful)

fictionpuss (1136565) | more than 5 years ago | (#27694937)

If you can't link directly to it - it's pointless; if you can direct link - why pay for it?

Eventually the over-valuation of old media forms will rebalance to make web-ads more viable.. then "more" could be "much".. question though is when?

Re:It's always the same story (1)

Murpster (1274988) | more than 5 years ago | (#27694989)

Remember back in the day when having a .com email address meant you were an internet leper to be mocked? "Companies?? On the internet? Go away assholes!" God I miss that.

Re:It's always the same story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27695343)

At some point, I'd be curious as to what Slashdot is doing with a .org. They're not exactly a nonprofit.

Re:It's always the same story (1)

siddesu (698447) | more than 5 years ago | (#27694997)

Well, from the looks of it, there is no big change from the traditional "content" production, as it was known through the centuries.

There ain't no such thing as free lunch, and in the end, someone's paying. For better or worse, the end consumers of the product will be getting what they are paying for. For some things, like scientific information, "free" model will probably work out great. For other things, like information from which one can directly derive profit, that will mean paid services. For news, commentaries and political stuff, that will mean a ton of manipulative sources that get money from somewhere to promote a point; and a melee of losers with blogs that will be "joining the debate". For everything else, a lot of copy-paste and marketing write-ups.

In other words, business as usual, just over a "new" medium. Which hasn't been new for two decades now ;)

Re:It's always the same story (1)

camg188 (932324) | more than 5 years ago | (#27697719)

It may mean that television news will dominate. They are already producing stories to air and will continue to do so. It is relatively simple to supply that already produced news content online.

Re:It's always the same story (5, Insightful)

pileated (53605) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695153)

Except 'selling ads' doesn't work and it doesn't come close to the amount of money made from print ads. That, and the tremendous problems that the current recession has brought to newspapers, is why they're considering charging for access. This venture is a bit different in that it's trying to replace a failed print paper not augment one.

Opinions go back and forth on this and most of them are not unbiased. Tell certain people that you have to charge for online news and they'll call you a Luddite who lives in the past, chases already failed dreams, etc. But I think most people who know anything about the industry and its economics know that online news is not a winning economic proposition, particularly if it is funded by ads. Those who believe that it is a winning model have to assume that things will change drastically after the recession. No one really knows but I suspect that they won't and this has been a foolish business strategy.

Nor is news free. In fact there is talk now of getting most print based web sites to coordinate the change to subscription. Thus you go from 'all the news is free' to 'no news is free.' People who say the news is free are idiots. It takes a tremendous amount of work and money to cover the news in a substantive way. And this has nothing to do with ideology. It costs the same for both left and right leaning papers. So news may seem free but it isn't. There is a large cost and for it to continue someone has to pay for it. In any case print papers are finally realizing that they are losing readers, and perhaps advertisers, because there is this thought that news is free and that it doesn't make sense to pay for a print newspaper.

They thought they might counter this with online sites and make up the lost money in online advertising. That didn't happen. So in this recession, with many papers filing for bankruptcy protection they have to consider all options, including pay sites. This would make little sense if people can get the news they want free elsewhere. But if all newspapers institute the same policy things might change. Newspapers know it is a huge gamble. But so is bankruptcy.

Re:It's always the same story (1)

Sun.Jedi (1280674) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695281)

Except 'selling ads' doesn't work

Agreed. If I can block them, which I do at home, and my company's web filter conveniently does for me at work, then they are a waste of time and bandwidth.

Re:It's always the same story (3, Funny)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695487)

60% of consumers are willing to browse with an ad-blocker in return for free videos, music and other content, a survey has revealed. "This willingness to pretend to view adverts in exchange for free content is good news for sites wanting to lie to advertisers," said Tudor Aw at KPMG, "and is perhaps a pointer in the ongoing debate over whether lying to advertisers or lying to subscribers is the right revenue model."

40% of respondents said they would pretend to accept popups, popunders, interstitials, Phorm, floating windows zipping and swooping about the screen, Flash videos that start playing sound automatically, eye-gouging animations and cookies in exchange for free music. 16% said they would pay to avoid ads. The rest would continue to get their telly from BitTorrent and browse with Mozilla Firefox with AdBlock.

People were more willing to pay on mobile phones, unless they had a modern phone that could steal someone's WiFi connection.

Google, the world's largest online advertising agency, said it was looking into tastefully-interspersed direct content advertising and brand placement, and added that you should PUNCH THE MONKEY TO WIN £20,000!!! [] "If you know what's good for you."

Re:It's always the same story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27695997)

Please stop spamming us with your retarded "humour" and links back to your site.

Re:It's always the same story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27695643)

It takes a tremendous amount of work and money to cover the news in a substantive way

Yeah, it takes a lot of gas and persistence to chase Perez Hilton around town looking for dirt.

Re:It's always the same story (5, Insightful)

NotBorg (829820) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695855)

They thought they might counter this with online sites and make up the lost money in online advertising.

They might make more money from ads if they could get people to stop blocking them.

Flashing high contrast colors, telling users they're infected, blasting users back 10 feet with unexpected audio, waiting excessively longer to view a page with ads, spyware... fuck I could go on for days. Many people don't even trust ads enough to even click on them when something looks interesting.

Three most pushed buttons on your remote? ch-up, ch-down, mute. Making your ads 10 times louder didn't get them heard. It got them muted. When I need to make a collect call? I hit 0. I hate those ads so fucking much.

Someone needs to man up and say... no I won't run your ad because it gets us blocked. Sorry you can't run that ad on EZFM 106... its what makes people use mp3 players exclusively in their cars. Sorry we think this ad sucks so bad that it causes people to ch-up/down or mute. Sorry your ad suck so bad that even honest citizens are turning to torrents.

Re:It's always the same story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27697809)

I've noticed that Youtube and other video feeds are imbedding ads as a popup at the bottom of the video. You can't block the ad without blocking the video. Content providers will just migrate away from using flash and javascript for ads and start using dynamically served html.

Re:It's always the same story (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 5 years ago | (#27698525)

Then simply don't use the imbedded video player. In most flash video sites, the actual video is an FLV file that can be downloaded separately, and it doesn't contain ads. You can find the URL either by looking at the source, or there are plugins that do it for you in all the browsers. As a last resort, just intercept the HTTP headers during the initial part of the download, and you'll find the URL in plain text.

You can watch the FLV file with all the major media players, and this has the added benefit that you'll never have to wait on "buffering" delays.

Re:It's always the same story (1)

antic (29198) | more than 5 years ago | (#27697065)

Why do you think selling ads doesn't work?

Or do you mean selling a certain type of ad (annoying ones, for one thing)?

I doubt ad blockers are used by a majority of people. And statistics on the web are better than they are in newspapers. While the current economic climate is impacting spending, businesses will always need to reach their targets. Anyone hosting eyeballs (popular websites) will have the option to capitalise on that.

IMO, the money being spent on advertising in newspapers and radio will gradually start to shift to the web. I still have clients spending $15,000/year on their ad in the Yellow Pages which is an absolute waste of money and gradually they'll wake up to new opportunities. I have seen campaigns on AdWords and radio see the former outperform the latter by a factor of 100 to 1, for similar expenditure.

Of course, the form of advertising may change; things like co-branded ventures, side-projects/tools, sponsorships, etc are harder to block and less annoying for users.

Re:It's always the same story (1)

pileated (53605) | more than 5 years ago | (#27697177)

I'm replying to a number of people here who asked why I say that selling ads doesn't work. It's strictly financial. How much are advertisers willing to pay to place advertisements on web pages? Not nearly enough numerous recent studies have shown. It has little to do with what users do with the ads - block them, click them or whatever. Web sites make money by selling ads to advertisers. If advertisers won't pay enough for them then sites don't make money. In particular they make little money in comparison to what they get in payment for print advertising, even though print advertising is in a tremendous decline. In addition, and I have to say I've read various articles saying that they do/don't make enough money from online advertising to pay for the online staff.

That in fact goes back to the original article. The people who were going to fund the online paper said that 3,000 subscribers was just not anywhere near enough money to support a staff of 30. My guess is that they also found a severe lack of advertising income.

Re:It's always the same story (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27697687)

Except 'selling ads' doesn't work and it doesn't come close to the amount of money made from print ads. But declining print ad revenue is what ultimately did in the print edition of the Rocky Mountain News. For years they fought a circulation and ad war with the Denver Post, with both sides cutting subscription rates and ad costs to steal readers and advertisers from each other. The News blinked first, when their losses cornered them into a "joint operating agreement" with the Post to forestall closing up years ago. The Post got the only Sunday edition, with the highest ad revenue. The News was left with the much less profitable Saturday edition. They both tried raising rates after the JOA, but the market wouldn't bear the increases they needed to make up for a decade of losses and operating on borrowed money. Meanwhile, Craig's list took over much of the classified ad business (the papers raised their rates for private party ads, defying the main lesson of Econ 101, thus effectively surrendering to on-line media). It remains to be seen if the Post can survive. While their in-town rival is gone, the competition from on-line media is as fierce as ever.

Maybe 3,000 isn't so bad (1)

Jabbrwokk (1015725) | more than 5 years ago | (#27697143)

You're right. However, they managed to get 3,000 subscribers, which means at $5 per month each they can now afford to pay a full-time newsroom staff of five people, on top of whatever the advertising pays for. Not too shabby.

The Pegasus News [] manages to cover the entire Dallas-Fort Worth area with a total staff of 19 people.

Re:It's always the same story (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 5 years ago | (#27698469)

If you charge for content and lock it down, you can make some money here and there, but almost all the time you'll make more overall if you don't charge, attract way, way more readers, and sell ads.

That's only true for weakly compelling content which is most types of content. If you actually have real compelling content, then you're better off with lockdown.

Just one example of real compelling content is porn. Although there are millions of sites with free porn clips, people still pay for memberships of pornsites, and you don't see pornsites going all free and ad based.

The trouble with news is that it just isn't that compelling, especially now that there is so much cross syndication of content. Certainly, it's a lot less compelling than porn, which admittedly has the advantage that we're hardwired for it.

Roll-eyes (3, Interesting)

Weedhopper (168515) | more than 5 years ago | (#27694917)

Surprise, surprise.

You mean people won't pay for something they can just as easily get for free?

Really, who didn't see this one coming?

What value are they adding to the "news" when, between the TV news websites and Google News for all the other locals who are NOT participating in this doomed venture, people get what they want?

The only way this could work is if EVERY relevant news outlet decided to do this simultaneously. It would only take ONE outlet not participating to ruin the model.

These guys need to realize that they need to give up on a dead and dying model of how information is distributed. The old media moguls who still run the show don't get it. That they can't up with another solution speaks to their actual lack of vision and creativity. Hey, Murdoch, if you're so fucking smart, why can't you and your people come up with a product that people want to buy?

Re:Roll-eyes (4, Insightful)

tool462 (677306) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695097)

Except that the bulk of that news being delivered through Google News comes from those media moguls with a failed business model. What I expect will happen is that journalism will be consolidated into a few large companies (say, Turner & News Corp), that will then either do as you say and charge for content, or can guarantee enough eyeballs through their new oligopoly that ad rates go up. Regardless, I can't help but think that the consolidation of news sources will ultimately be a bad thing for our society. It was bad enough when ClearChannel took over radio...

Re:Roll-eyes (5, Insightful)

FatJuggles (1206940) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695123)

The Wall Street Journal is a newspaper that's been charging for online content since as long as I can remember their site. Crain's Chicago Business is another site that charges. I pay for that site since it covers Chicago business news much better than any TV station in Chicago does.

See some sort of pattern? People will pay for the content if it is valuable enough. If it's Perez Hilton's blog, no one cares to pay for it. Many times, WSJ is the first one to break some sort of major news story. Crain's covers Chicago Business in depth and has access to local business leaders because of it.

It doesn't matter that others in their peer group give crap away for free. If you put some effort in to making a good product, people will buy it.

Re:Roll-eyes (5, Insightful)

grcumb (781340) | more than 5 years ago | (#27696127)

See some sort of pattern? People will pay for the content if it is valuable enough.

Well put, but I wish more people understood what 'valuable' really means.

People everywhere get that supply and demand is fundamentally different on the Web, but they get the emphasis entirely wrong. I've written about it in more detail [] elsewhere, but here's a quick summary:

You can't just arbitrarily limit supply and expect it to magically increase in value. The mechanics of digital media make that impossible. You have to have something that's inherently valuable in the first place.

For most people, the generic fluff that fills up 90% of their local newspaper is not something they would have paid for, if they'd had the choice. On the Web, they have that choice, and they don't pay.

I write for two newspapers, and also publish online. I'm sympathetic to the plight of the traditional dailies and weeklies. I just wish they'd get a clue.

Re:Roll-eyes (1)

Weedhopper (168515) | more than 5 years ago | (#27696249)

Absolutely dude. I pay for The Economist. Not because I'm Economist kind of guy, but because they consolidate information in a way that adds value to the actual news.

Roll-dice. (1)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 5 years ago | (#27696479)

"It doesn't matter that others in their peer group give crap away for free. If you put some effort in to making a good product, people will buy it."

Yes but the question for a business isn't so much, "will they buy it" but "will enough people buy it"?

Re:Roll-dice. (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 5 years ago | (#27698589)

Yes but the question for a business isn't so much, "will they buy it" but "will enough people buy it"?

Depends how greedy the business is. If the business is privately owned, then "enough people" is usually much lower than if the business is publically traded.

IPOs are great for the original owners if they want to sell out, but the pressures to grow shareholder value every day mean that there will never be "enough people" to buy it after the IPO.

WSJ available free (1)

dangle (1381879) | more than 5 years ago | (#27696781)

With a little effort. refspoof allows one to view the normally subscriber only articles: []

Re:WSJ available free (1)

Xuranova (160813) | more than 5 years ago | (#27696961)

so are movies 'with a little effort', but that dodges the point of the article.

Re:Roll-eyes (1)

zer0that (1418047) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695195)

There are other outlets that cover niche stories. For instance I pay for Stratfor because it covers news on Mexican drug cartels very well. In fact, I have yet to find another outlet that has such detailed information. So as the person above notes, valuable content really is the big determining factor. Niche market, or first with the information where its necessary.

Re:Roll-eyes (1)

AcidPenguin9873 (911493) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695225)

Sigh. "Free" is a misleading word here.

Who is paying the salaries of the journalists producing the content that people get for free on most other news websites? Advertisers, obviously. So the question then becomes, "Can a journalism business support itself solely on advertising revenue, because subscription-based support doesn't exist?" Google sure can, but they have a much wider audience than a local paper, and they've positioned themselves as both a medium for advertising (direct income from companies wishing to advertise on Google), as well as an ad service that provides ads (indirect income from companies that pay Google to supply them with ad content - AdSense). Are they the only internet business that is profitable based completely on advertising? Citations needed, please.

You're basically arguing (with evidence to support you) against subscription-supported journalism. I'm agreeing, and further arguing ad-supported "free" journalism is going to be pretty damn hard to make work for anyone other than Google. Not to mention that now the journalists are slaves to the advertisers who are effectively paying their salaries. What happens to news then? Who else will pay for people to report it? The government via taxes? I wouldn't want that either.

Hope everyone enjoys their "information wants to be free" society!

Re:Roll-eyes (1)

Weedhopper (168515) | more than 5 years ago | (#27696229)

I'm arguing against subscription based general news that is just as good from one source as another. It's all recycled AP stuff anyway.

I AM willing to pay for subscription journalism as long as the value added is worth my money. I pay a little under $100 a year for my online only subscription to The Economist. Off an on, I've subscribed to ArsTechnica. I would pay for IRIN and ReutersAlertnet.

These people are deluding themselves. They're looking to make you pay for information in a way that's simply not feasible anymore. The old methods of controlling the information flow don't apply. Figure out a new way. If they sold an product or service I want to buy, I will pay for it.

BUT, if there's just one major site out there that gives away what you're selling for free, you're game's up. Local news? TV news channels, for all of their faults, will give that to me for free on their websites. They've already paid for that content through advertising. Its free to me, just like how it's "free" for me to turn on the TV (I don't actually have a TV).

There's a cliche about a barn door... Or burst damns. I don't know which one is more appropriate.

Re:Roll-eyes (1)

donny77 (891484) | more than 5 years ago | (#27696397)

The salaries are paid by the AP. The AP doesn't make money on ads, it makes money on selling articles to newspapers. These newspapers make ad revenue and subscription revenue.

Now, I live in a small town, ~50,000. I subscribe to the local paper and quite honestly I find little in it that isn't outdated or on CNN. For local news, the free 100% ad supported community paper has much better content.

Re:Roll-eyes (1)

donny77 (891484) | more than 5 years ago | (#27697047)

More I think about we're missing the boat. It's not so much adverts as classified ads. They probably generated a lot of revenue for the papers. Now, instead of a classified ad, people use e-bay and Craigslist.

Re:Roll-eyes (1)

seebs (15766) | more than 5 years ago | (#27696217)

What value they're adding to the "news" is that if we kill off everyone who did actual investigative reporting, the "news" will be back to the WWW's original list of links to other lists of links none of which ever lead to pages containing information.

Re:Roll-eyes (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27696681)

Hey, Murdoch, if you're so fucking smart, why can't you and your people come up with a product that people want to buy?

I'm not a fan of Murdoch or his properties but I am a longtime newspaper reader and wish we could stop modding up this kind of trash talk. It's a "Tragedy of the Commons" type situation. Nobody wants to pay for what they can get for free, but if nobody pays, or not enough people pay to support a viable industry then there won't be much of anything worthwhile to be had. Instead of real journalism, we'll have compilations of press statements from government and corporate officials, lobbyists and self promoters, plus the usual truckloads of uninformed commentary from netizens.

This is a largely repeat of the situation in recorded music, where most people here decided that the problem was the record companies are being run by silly, evil men. Maybe Murdoch will be the poster boy for the /. caricature of the news industry.

Perhaps they were too aggressive (3, Insightful)

plover (150551) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695005)

50,000 subscribers in a month? That's really, really optimistic.

It sounds to me like that's the goal they set in order to meet some certain existing financial mark (such as paying the current rent and 100% of the reporter's salaries, etc.) Not a safe bet on a real unknown like "who will subscribe to the online version?"

Re:Perhaps they were too aggressive (1)

AnalPerfume (1356177) | more than 5 years ago | (#27696667)

Perhaps it was the number of their dead tree version readers who had a PC and access to the internet in a recent poll.

CEO - "In that poll we did recently, how many have access to the internet and a device to subscribe?"
Marketing - "50,000"
CEO - "Mark that figure as our target for the first month's subscription, you have to be bold in this game."
Marketing - "That's a tough ask, perhaps we should aim a bit lower for a while."
CEO - "Get personnel in here to dictate a job advert, we may have a vacancy in marketing to fill."
Marketing - "On second thoughts 50,000 sounds perfectly achievable."
CEO - "I thought you'd see it my way, if I just explained it properly."

Tell me why... (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695029)

I should pay for news when I can find it anywhere I want for free? If 'content' is going to be premium, it needs to be something that I can't find anywhere else. The general problem for these news sites is you can find it somewhere else.

Re:Tell me why... (1)

taxman_10m (41083) | more than 5 years ago | (#27696043)

Everyone covers the big stuff. How many people cover the last town council meeting?

Re:Tell me why... (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 5 years ago | (#27696465)

I get that on my local access TV station(on basic cable), and can also walk down to my city hall and get the minutes and full transcripts for free.

Re:Tell me why... (1)

taxman_10m (41083) | more than 5 years ago | (#27696539)

What about reporting on it. That's quite different than watching the thing in its entirety or getting the transcript.

Re:Tell me why... (1)

antic (29198) | more than 5 years ago | (#27697095)

Obviously not many, but very few will pay for that sort of watchdog role. I've actually wondered in the past if that responsibility couldn't fall to universities in some way - student journalists cutting their teeth. Better than no watchdog at all.

In Other News, Most People Won't Pay for Air (4, Insightful)

Shihar (153932) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695051)

The idea that you are going to win charging money when there exists an Internet a few billion strong that is devoted to passing and spreading information for basically nothing is on its face silly. Short of government mandate creating a cartel, basic news is going to be impossible to charge for.

The only people that can charge are folks who actually do investigative journalism and can bring something to the table that others can't. The Economist is a great of a publication that has actually managed to charge people. They manage to bring in heavy weight thinkers (Nobel laureates, high government officials, authors, etc.) that normally are harder to access. They serve their niche well and drag in a few extra bucks from the Intertubes for the effort.

What you can't charge for is basic news and random journalist opinion. The opinion of a journalist (no offense) is not any deeper or brighter than any other bloke. You might as well ask a hair dresser or an engineer for their opinion. Basic news is also impossible to charge for. News spreads too fast and someone will put it up for free.

If you serve a niche very very well in a way that absolutely no one else does credibly, you might be able to charge for access. Otherwise though, the only other alternative is to find a way to turn eyeballs on the page into cash. Usually, that means ads, but there are certainly other ways out there that no one has hit on yet. I mean hell, who would have thought 20 years ago that the print cartoonist who do the best are not actually in print, but on the web and make most of their money by selling merchandise?

Some People... (1)

CaptScarlet22 (585291) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695057)

...Just don't know when to quit....

No PR (4, Interesting)

at.splat (775901) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695085)

I live in Denver and always preferred the Rocky Mountain News to the Denver Post, the local paper that has so far survived. I'm a news junkie and get all my content almost exclusively online. I never heard of until this morning.

While the summary's conclusion may be correct — migration from print to web may very well be a futile endeavor — it's an entirely different story if people in the target demographic know nothing of the venture. Let's at least acknowledge this for what it is: in large part, a failure of publicity.

Same here (2, Informative)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695107)

I also had not heard of it at all, and I live in Denver also...

Although once in the web arena, I'm not sure how well a newspaper based web site can do against the news station web sites.

Re:Same here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27697115)

I also had not heard of it at all, and I live in Denver also...

I agree their PR sucks. I've never lived in Denver and not once in my whole life have I heard of

The nature of new media (1)

torvik (1518775) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695145)

It's not solely the fact that we can get the same thing elsewhere for free that did them in... It's also the fact that, in the new age of Internet-powered media which we're just starting to see dawn now, no one really should have to pay for anything.

There's no point (1)

rob1980 (941751) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695179)

If the Omaha World-Herald were to shut down tomorrow, I'd still get all the local news I need from KETV, WOWT, KMTV, or KPTM. And if the TV stations set up a subscription model on their respective websites, I'd still be able to watch the 6 o'clock news for free over the air. In fact, it might prompt them to add more local news programming to take up the slack. There would be no incentive for me to pay a dime for local news when I can get it for free.

Newspapers haven't made money from subscriptions (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695219)

in years. They are no different than phone books now.

Theres a reason I have to call the newspaper and bitch at them to stop throwing the fucking useless pulp on my driveway every morning. It took me threatening to start calling the cops and reporting them as littering before the stopped. I have never subscribed to a newspaper in this state, and haven't paid for a newspaper in at least 20 years.

Subscriptions fees are just icing on the cake, free money so to speak. They make their real money on advertising in the newspaper. The value of their advertising to their real customers (the advertisers) is high subscription counts.

An advertiser wants to hit as many people as possible for the least amount of cost.

So because of that bullshit, I get a newspaper every day that I don't want and at best gets used to start a fire in the fireplace. Most of the time it goes in the trash. If I'm really lucky I'll get to throw it in the trash before it gets soaking wet and ran over when I back out of the driveway.

It doesn't matter if I read it or not, they can claim that their shitty little waste of trees and landfill space has one more viewer because they dropped it off.

Only idiots pay for newspaper subscriptions because EVERY news source now spews ads at you all the time. If people are given the choice of paying AND seeing ads, or just seeing the ads, which do you think they are going to pick? With a few minor exceptions from older generations people don't even prefer the dead tree format anymore, it was great during its time, but now that we can search and quickly access stories we want via the web, newspapers are dead in their current form.

Once they realize this, they might have a chance at surviving. Its unlikely however since greed will likely do them in anyway, with the Internet its far too easy for someone else to come along and start a new news service with less ads and no cost to the viewer. Bandwidth is dirt cheap. Sensationalism is annoying. Typical reporters are generally so biased they can't see straight. People have realized that if they are going to get all this crappy news anyway, might as well just go read some douchebags blog. Its probably not been researched or fact checked, but considering the quality of what the major news outlets are producing its really not any different, except there is no expectation of quality news so people filter it anyway.

Traditional media (print, tv, radio, whatever) doesn't consider its viewers the customer, it considers the advertisers as its customer. Joe the plumbers blog on the other hand starts out as Joe telling stories as he sees them which is far more appealing to most people than a rag that warps the stories so its advertisers are never shown in a bad light. Eventually, Joe gets popular and starts to do the same crap. Thats when we just move on to Jane the house wifes blog and Joe is left right along beside all the other piles of crap that don't realize that greed is what kills them.

duh indeed. (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695239)

1995 called. It wants its web business model back.

There's a huge gap somewhere in newspapers' thinking. (And actually, one in every content producers' thinking). People want free content. TV is the perfect example of a very successful business model where the prime channels are free of charge to the end user. Advertisers pay millions to advertise on TV. There is, absolutely, categorically, beyond any shadow of a doubt, no technological impediment to why this can't happen for online news, TV, movies, music, or whatever else.

The reason it doesn't happen is narrow-minded executives who do not think creatively enough, or try hard enough. Adapt or die. End of story.

Re:duh indeed. (2, Informative)

zonky (1153039) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695481)

Free to Air TV is the perfect example of a monopoly business model where there is an artifical constraint (Limited Frequency Allocation) on the number of entrants to the market. Where digital TV, etc has increased the number of players, revenue/earnings has dropped signficantly.

Re:duh indeed. (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695823)

It has dropped significantly, but it's far, far, far from zero. And most of those entrants into the market are only able to do so through subscription. The core business remains both free to the end user and hugely profitable. TiVo has a much bigger impact on revenue than new entrants to the market.

Any viable content requires specialist skills to produce. In the case of newspapers that means high quality journalists. That (as a million blogs prove conclusively), does restrict entry into the market. The weak will fail, sure. (just as 80% of cable channels would fail overnight without subscription revenue) But the model works for those who are able to produce popular quality content, and it works well.

Re:duh indeed. (4, Insightful)

Coriolis (110923) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695999)

There's a huge gap somewhere in newspapers' thinking. (And actually, one in every content producers' thinking). People want free content.

There appears to be one in most content consumers' thinking, too. There is no such thing as free. Everything costs somebody, something.

TV is the perfect example of a very successful business model where the prime channels are free of charge to the end user. Advertisers pay millions to advertise on TV. There is, absolutely, categorically, beyond any shadow of a doubt, no technological impediment to why this can't happen for online news, TV, movies, music, or whatever else.

Other, you mean, than the ease of automatic filtering of online adverts? Online adverts cost a hell of lot less than TV adverts because they're too easy to avoid. This will only get worse. As technology advances and TV adverts become easier to filter out, TV advertisers will have options like increased product placement available to them (imagine little "buy now!" buttons hovering over laptops in CSI). These tricks will likely neither be possible nor desirable in text-based services like online news.

The reason it doesn't happen is narrow-minded executives who do not think creatively enough, or try hard enough. Adapt or die. End of story.

Indeed. I think the "adaption" that's been postulated elsewhere is quite possible: first, smaller news outfits die as advertising revenue on online services fails to replace lost revenue from newspapers; then, the few remaining big players get together and agree to simultaneously switch business models. Even if they don't do that, you're still left with a few large corporations controlling what news the public sees.

Re:duh indeed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27698145)

then, the few remaining big players get together and agree to simultaneously switch business models.

There are already only a few big players - Reuters, AP etc. [] and they already have their own websites.

Major websites like cnn and bbc prettify that content. All other websites, like Rocky Mountain Times, are excess to requirements.

Re:duh indeed. (1)

daveime (1253762) | more than 5 years ago | (#27696221)

Pfft ... tell that to my cable provider (Sky Cable Philippines), who not only make you pay for the cable, but are now running ads also in the breaks of popular primetime shows. Bastards.

In other news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27695271)

Dinosaurs are surprised that they are shivering now that the planet has cooled...

Newspapers are in the Content Industry now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27695321)

Newspapers are a dead industry. They just don't get that they're in the Content business against the Internet, TV, radio, etc. Syndicating AP stories isn't a business model. Give me something useful and compelling, keep the opinion on the opinion pages and news on the news pages.

In Response to "New wants to be free" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27695357)

If all news is "free" who pays the bills of the people that cover it?

Yes, Slashdot, Digg, Reddit type news may be the way of the future (I hope not) but in depth reporting, international coverage and quality writing will benefit if people can devote 40+ hours a week to it and know they can support a family.

Usually get it backwards (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695399)

I didn't see full details in the linked AP article, but these schemes almost always get it backwards.

Content is ubiquitous. They need to look at charging for something other than content. For example, charge for timeliness. In other words, put up a paywall that only surrounds the latest week or two of articles. And I don't mean AP reprints, I mean timely local news coverage and opinion that isn't available anywhere else. Let people who want that information as soon as it is available pay a premium, but eventually migrate it all out to the free world. That way you build up an portfolio of work that is both useful to people do research on the net and gives a very good idea of what people will get for their subscription money.

They might even take it a step further and sell a subscription tier that does include hardcopy delivery in addition to electronic, like the WSJ and Consumer Reports do.

The Linux Weekly News [] works like that - you want this week's news this week - that requires a subscription, but if you want last week's news or last year's news, that's free.

Re:Usually get it backwards (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695503)

There's two sides to that. It's actually more valuable to make the old content pay-to-play. You might also get a "breaking news" bonus, but there are so many bloggers, twits, et al., out there that you'd have to be creating the content from scratch, and that's expensive to do with dedicated humans. Too expensive for all but business use and large markets.

No, if you kept all your old articles under lock and key, you'd find people who needed access to that information and would be willing to pay dearly to get it.

Re:Usually get it backwards (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695981)

Yeah, that's precisely the shorted-sighted thinking that kills most of these ventures. The NY Times tried to do that, they found it didn't work and stopped doing it. You keep your old articles under lock and key, people will pirate them. Other sources will produce roughly similar articles for free - as you yourself wrote. Except for certain niche applications, the value is not in the content itself.

Re:Usually get it backwards (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 5 years ago | (#27696113)

I was thinking more of a Lexis-Nexis type database - geared towards research and review, with a nice interface and powerful search engine. Value added stuff. And when I say "pay dearly," I mean as compared to "free".

Now, two things affect this. (1) if all you're storing is other people's stuff, then you're hosed because (2) game theory still holds - if just one other outlet for the material is free, you get nothing.

There's just not much value for good reporting these days. Note that I disagree that good reporting is not valuable, just that society as a whole does not place value distinction between good and poor reporting. Most blogs are useless, but they're free. That sets the bar for all but niche applications.

Re:Usually get it backwards (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#27696157)

Good reporting is very valuable. But the older the reporting is, the more it is diluted by other sources who may only do 90% as good a job - that's still plenty good enough for most people - or may even do better than 100% because they used the original reporting as a source for their own content thus incorporating it plus new material too.

But The Tyee brings in money (4, Interesting)

rueger (210566) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695685)

British Columbia's [] just ran a fundraising appeal to bring in dollars for additional election coverage. They asked for $5,000 and got $20,000. []

People will pay for good journalism, at least if they feel that the conventional outlets aren't doing the job.

Re:But The Tyee brings in money (1)

Jabbrwokk (1015725) | more than 5 years ago | (#27696087)

The Tyee is not a news site. It is not "good journalism." It is an opinion site. They write stories with very clear opinionated slants. And people who agree with that slant gravitate to the site and call it "good journalism."

Their election "coverage" is nothing more than them asking for money to cover the election from the slant their readers want. Read their appeal again.

From your link:

We asked you to tell us which issues mattered most to you, promised to put your donation towards that area of reporting

This is no different than a consortium of advertisers requesting a newspaper cover an election issue from a particular point of view. This is the same old thing, just more obvious.

This shows me people don't want news that tries to be objective as possible, they want to read something that agrees with their opinions.

Where will the content come from? (1)

cyanman (833646) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695803)

The one thing I never hear anyone discuss is the content. Sure the internet is great at distributing content. But where does the content COME FROM? The content of most internet "news sites" are links generated from someone who actually used a human to gather information and then write the story. Who was that actual human? Did MSN, Yahoo, Google or Drudge send out a human to talk to people, take pictures, research relevant facts? I'm guessing no to all of the above. They sucked up the content someone else paid to generate and put it on the net for free.

"When a 14 year old kid can blow up your business in his spare time, not because he hates you but because he loves you, then you got a problem." []

Sure the business model of the internet news feed can beat the Rocky Mountain News trying to sell content thrown on your front yard. But none of those "outlets" originate the news content, they regurgitate what someone else paid a reporter to generate. Freedom of the press means that you can print what you want and the government cannot stop you. It does not mean consumers are entitled to all of the news for free just because it exists. Before the net gave you access were you entitled to a free daily copy of the New York Times in your home, office, or coffee shop? Even when you live in Omaha? Just because MSN will give you an article for free does not make it free to generate. What happens to freedom of the press when the "printing press" is free? Will the news business degenerate into something that looks like tech review websites? Where they decide what to review and what to say about something based on who is giving them a free sample and who is paying the freight? Will you be able to trust your news site when what they publish is based on web clicks and flash ads? Whose feet do you hold to the fire when a blog post is repeated around the world and it turns out to be made up by a drunk in Waco who was bored on a Friday night? Will Google print an apology and a retraction?

Although there are similarities to the music business, at least there you have clubs, concert tours etc where a group of guys who want to make a living in the business can do so even if 90% of what they generate is pirated off the net for free. How many of you will go to a Ruben Navarrette, Charles Krauthammer or David Ignatius concert? They write columns for the Washington Post Writers Group, syndicated in almost 200 papers nationwide. You have probably read some of their stuff on your favorite news feed. How do real news reporters make a living when there is no one to pay for what they write? They quit the news business and turn it over to Perez Hilton.

Welcome to the Idiocracy []

Re:Where will the content come from? (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 5 years ago | (#27696567)

Like all Internet content, it is user-generated, contributed and blatently stolen.

In the world of the 18-24 year old demographic, nobody pays for anything on the Internet. Movies, music, news, whatever, it is all free for the taking. So you have entire online ventures built on the premise they can just get top-quality content for free from ... well, somewhere.

The result of this is that the content is worth precisely what was paid for it.

Sure, some of it is good. And some is bad. Most is either incredibly silly or downright offensively bad. But it is what is offered by people spending their own time to put forth their opinion, views and observations on things. Often things they have utterly no basis for holding such opinions on which nobody will ever know.

So why is Daily Kos more interesting to people than their local newspaper? Primarily, I believe it is because Daily Kos (and thousands of sites just like it) supposedly have "real people" whereas the local newspaper just has "paid flacks". And I am using Daily Kos as an example - Free Republic would serve just as well. It is also that these web sites have people with as strident, or even more so, views on things than the viewers do. So they can step away from the screen thinking that their views are confirmed and there are obviously people even more wacky on the subject than they are.

The newspaper, on the other hand, neiher confirms or denies their worldview. It offers dry, bland facts without embellishments or stridency. It isn't entertaining, certainly not in the way that a Daily Kosser gets s few jollies from reading Free Republic.

We have been moving further and further towards the irrelevancy of facts and the total domination of entertainment. News programs aren't meant to inform, they are meant to entertain and titlate. The difference between the commercials and the news programs becomes less and less. This started with nearly the dawn of the television age and it isn't over yet.

Insane. (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695887)

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results

If the local print newspaper had to shut down due to lack of reader interest, why should a local electronic newspaper filled with similar content succeed?

Detroit News (1)

Balthisar (649688) | more than 5 years ago | (#27695945)

The Detroit News just went to a similar model. I still subscribe to the limited paper edition just to get the Sunday. It's a stupid, stupid, schedule. I get Thu., Sat., and Sun., but have free (as in, included with my paper subscription whose price didn't go down), the online edition.

Well, the online edition sucks ass. Computer screens aren't newspapers. I've *always* had access to the web version, which is still much, much better, especially with an RSS reader.

So even I, a non-luddite, a computer user, who now has free (for practical purposes) access to the online "print" edition, won't use it. If I won't use because of its uselessness, why the heck would they expect paid subscribers to want it?

Free WSJ access! (1)

vivek7006 (585218) | more than 5 years ago | (#27696805)

WSJ gives free access to premium content is you are being redirected from google, facebook, digg etc. Here is a dirty little secret. The entire content on WSJ is available to you for free, if you can trick WSJ into believing that you have been directed to their webpage via!

Step1) Use firefox
Step2) Install refspoof []
Step3) Install greasemonkey []
Step4) Install this script in greasemonkey []
Step5) Profit!!

$15,000/mo is a Failure? (1)

DavidD_CA (750156) | more than 5 years ago | (#27696881)

So, it sounds like they're pulling in $15,000/mo, or $180,000/year.

Surely that's enough to pay for hosting and a couple of reporters and still make a profit.

They may not be raking it in, but I'd be pretty happy with that.

Not a good time for newspapers (1)

pcgabe (712924) | more than 5 years ago | (#27696985)

I feel for them. The print paper shuts down and their online offering falls flat.

Saw this recently:

"So how are things at the newspaper?"
"Really good. It's a boom industry right now. We actually drove here in a car made out of money. That's how good things are. Would you like some money? I have extra."

source []

A thing is worth what it will bring (4, Insightful)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#27697137)

And if the cost of production is above that amount, it will fade away.

When distribution of information required a million dollar printing press and an army of little boys to bring three day old text to the citizen who wanted to be informed, newspapers made sense. The value of a reporter who could weigh the issues and give a factual report only minimally slanted by his opinion and experience was proven. It was worth the effort to read between the lines of the reportage and the editing to find an understanding of what actually happened.

In an age where any twit with an iPhone can stream live coverage to be archived to YouTube, where the twitterati can disseminate hot issues, where the blogosphere can issue forth its opinion of the events first, second and third hand, where Google can weigh the merits of those opinions and link not only to them but to video of what happened - all within minutes of the actual events ... not so much.

InDenverTimes story about this (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 5 years ago | (#27697221)

Maybe InDenverTimes' own story should have been linked: "INDenverTimes provides update" []

Information wants to be free. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27697831)

These are but the death-pangs of an old-world media age. In 20 years newspapers will seem as quaint as an Amish buggy did to the 1950s American car-culture.

Information wants to be free. Get on board or get the hell out of the way.

Try looking at successful paid content. (3, Interesting)

Ortega-Starfire (930563) | more than 5 years ago | (#27697905)

The newspapers are doing it wrong. I pay an absurd amount of money for news services that actually report news.

Stratfor is the cheapest one that I use, and I appreciate it for its global reporting and analysis of situations that happens to be (gasp!) unbiased! They literally just provide the facts and logical analysis. If they did local news I'd pay them more.

I tried to RTFA... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27698283)

...but it wasn't there.

February made me shiver, with all the papers I didn't deliver...

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