Editor’s note: On Monday, Joanna Cabot told us about the Toronto Star’s recent announcement that it would soon be moving its online content behind a paywall. I’m guessing the news must have come as a particularly painful double-punch in Canada, where the The Globe & Mail—perhaps the finest daily newspaper in the country—rolled out a paywall of its own on October 22.
In the Toronto Star today, columnist Rosie Dimano sounds off on the announcement this week that the paper is moving to a paywall for online content.
On the negative side, Rosie is a bit of an old curmudgeon type, and admits she’s a dinosaur who doesn’t really care to have a ‘conversation’ with her audience. She writes, you read, the end. That’s old journalism, and it’s on its way out—even if people do start paying for access to newspaper’s websites.
But she does make some valid points: It’s true that it costs money to put out a newspaper, and that it has to be paid for somehow. It’s true, too, that so far, the returns The Star has seen for its investment in online news have been small compared to the money that’s been put in.
But the point Rosie seems to miss is that it’s the kind of content matters. I’m thinking of something along the lines of the annual university rankings issue that Macleans magazine puts out. If you had a short little online teaser for that, and then a link to download the full report for a few dollars, people would do it. But for just plain ol’ regular news? Probably not. They’re competing with the free commuter papers, free radio … heck, they’re even competing with Twitter.
Let me ask you this: Did any of you out there in TeleReadland not know about Hurricane Sandy? In my house, we don’t have newspapersor cable television, and we knew. If a big story is happening, people will hear about it.
So my point stands: If The Star wants people to pay, they need to offer content that is unique and special and different. For the time being, at least, I do think that asking people to pay for regular news is going to be a tough sell indeed.
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