February 27, 2012

Re: Providence Journal Lowers The Boom On Us Freeloaders Tuesday

Patrick Laverty

I started this as a comment to Monique's post, but then decided to move it up.

I bet with my wife yesterday that the ProJo's paywall will only accelerate the decline. The ProJo likes to say "But the NY Times did it" but that's like me trying to hit a baseball like Kevin Youkilis and saying "Yeah, but that's how Youk hits!" We're not even in the same league. Plus, the NYT gives about 20 articles a day away for free. ProJo is instead giving about two to three paragraphs of most, if not all articles on the site, and then gives no indication that there is more to the story in the eEdition. Given the choice, I'd rather have what the NYT is giving away.

I really think many newspapers, especially the locals like the Woonsocket Call and Pawtucket Times will really need to rethink their business model and maybe they need to cut down to just two or three times a week and only focus on local news. Because really, who reads the Call or the Times for stories on Obama or Syria or even California. That's what we have all the national outlets for and if they're just pulling down AP stories, then it's all the same content anyway.

Plus, don't they need to ask themselves why they're failing in their model while the Valley Breeze-Observer is succeeding? Yeah, a huge difference is they are dalies and the Breeze is a weekly, but maybe that's something they need to look at. And what if the Breeze-Observer decided to add a paper a week and went twice a week, depending on area? What would that further do to the Call and Times?

And the ProJo is in a similar boat. Take a look and check out how many stories are "off the wire." Why should I pay the Journal money for the same articles I can read on cnn.com and other places for free? So two changes I would make to the Journal would be to actually do what they claim and go "hyper local" and phase out the national and international news. Example, just the other night, Dan Yorke chided the Journal for one instance of their lack of local coverage:

#ricanchorman pull miracle comeback down 11 w/3 to play hour away in league semi all they get in @projo is a box score

And I'm still at a loss for why the Journal would be emphasizing their print version over the digital so much. Look at it this way, if you had two ways of delivering your product, and one has the cost of huge reams of paper, barrels of ink, huge multi-million dollar machinery and a large distribution network of trucks, vans and independent carriers, plus all the staff it takes to maintain that process or you could simply send out a stream of 1s and 0s out to the internet at very little additional cost, which one would any normal business emphasize? This is the exact argument the recording industry lost and one that Apple completely figured out early with its iTunes model. Digital is cheaper and the way to go. Instead, the Providence Journal is still figuratively pressing 45s on wax.

The other idea I've put out there before for the Journal to try is micropayments. I don't necessarily want to pay $416 a year for a paper that as I've described simply has many wire stories and not as many local stories as they used to. Maybe there are individual articles that they could market and get people interested in. So sell individual articles. Have people put up a certain amount of money and then pull from that credit as they read individual articles. Maybe it costs 15 cents to have access to an article for 24 hours. I don't know what the right price is, but maybe people would be more willing to participate in a model like that. I have offered the suggestion and others directly to the people making the decisions (as have other people) but I have no idea if it even got received or read. There's never any kind of response from Fountain Street.

I'll just have to assume they know what they're doing. What do I know, I'm just an internet blogger. Hey Justin, since it appears the better way to go, should we start up a print edition of Anchor Rising?

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

I would have thought this had all been worked out 5, or 10, years ago. Remember when all of the "Journalists" were going to jail to "protect their sources".

They wanted "privilege" similar to lawyer-client, physician-patient. It all broke down over who is a "Journalist". If I write a blog, am I a "reporter". Basically, those people who buy ink by the barrel wanted it restricted to "print Journalists". It all broke down over definitions. But the handwriting was on the wall.

What are the "J-schools" doing these days?

Posted by: Warrington Faust at February 27, 2012 11:31 AM

Apparently the Biden handlers believe that if a reporter's words don't end up on dead trees, that the reporter doesn't have the right credentials. People like Nesi and McGowan were not allowed into the Biden-Whitehouse shindig on Thursday and were even kicked out of the Biltmore lobby.

How's that for this president's "transparency" and openness?

Posted by: Patrick at February 27, 2012 12:15 PM

The Call? BAHAHAHAHAHAHA...hasn't been relevent in 25 years. Not worth the paper it's printed on.

Posted by: JTR at February 27, 2012 2:51 PM

"Kill them all, God will know his own."

...That probably applies to newspapers, too. Really, who under 40 gets their news off of a slice of dead tree anymore? The whole concept is is just antiquated at this point. I understand putting more emphasis on digital vs. print, but holding on to print edition for its own sake seems quaint at best, and foolish at worse.

The ProJo, er, I mean The Providence Journal, has been on the cutting edge of nothing since maybe like the Civil War. Whenever they've been dragged kicking and screaming towards adapting to change, it's either been the wrong change (CueCat, anyone?) or it's just been way too late to be of much use to anyone who would care. As it stands, the Projo is about three-quarters wire reports from the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Los Angeles times anyway, and the rest is "local" news. Its local news coverage is not good at all, and there are plenty of other places I can get local news now.

I happen to agree with Patrick that if the Projo put a lot more emphasis on in depth, reasonably objective coverage of local news, it might have a market niche it could exploit, and at least prove itself worthy of continued existence, instead of irrelevance.

PS I have not been a print subscriber to the Projo for over 4 1/2 years now. That will not be changing with the new pay wall. Their opportunity to be on the cutting edge of technology and new trends was about 5 years ago. Right now, they're just waiting to die.

Posted by: Will at February 27, 2012 3:37 PM

It costs $3.99-a-week for the online version of the Boston Globe. Yet, the ProJo costs a penny more at $4.00. That doesn't make much sense. Sure, it's only $0.52 a year, but symbolically it means more.

Posted by: Bill at February 27, 2012 4:03 PM

Just wanted to add that I think there is a place for "dead tree" news. Until digital viewing areas become larger, much is missed. Digitally, there is little chance of noticing the odd story that might catch your interest, but that you weren't looking for. It just won't be on the page. The same is true of many smaller display ads.

We may be consigning ourselves to reading only the "big stories". Perhaps I will just need to get used to a new format.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at February 27, 2012 6:06 PM

An addendum to my post immediately above. I just looked at the Projo site for the first time in months. While scrolling down I came across a headline about the Rutger's web cam case. I decided to keep scrolling. I then thought, I didn't even know it was a "case". I went back to look at it. In the interim it had disappeared into the digital universe. If I were a subscriber, I suppose I could have chased it down. Basically I'm not that interested. But still, there might have been a factoid of interest to me. If it was "dead tree", I Could have turned back to it. Of course, it might not have made it into a print edition, being more trouble that it was worth.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at February 27, 2012 6:28 PM

For those who give the management of the ProJo the benefit of the doubt, recall that the Projo is still apparently trying to support and protect David Cicilline.

Maybe the ProJo has figured out that there are several specific classes of people in RI that must have a newsprint-based report every morning. Include in that group most of our legislators, other elected persons, appointed state and local officials, and all other hangers-on who need to reassure themselves every morning that they remain at least one step of the law -- and will likely remain free for at least another day (and probably forever).

Posted by: Bill at February 27, 2012 10:46 PM
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