Sunday, May 05, 2013

Paywall Obliterates Commenter Community

The Standard Times paywall, nearly a week old, wiped out a vibrant commenter community.  The front page looks like a lightly read blog, with zero comments next to every headline and top story.  Of five "most popular" stories, two had a comment, as in singular.

"Most commented" had 38 comments under the Publisher's Letter announcing the move, which came with no, as in zero, notice.  The other four "most commented" ranged from six to two in number.

The Standard Times even turned Rick Smith's column into a comment-less zone.  I wonder how zero compares to Rick's historical average.  I hope the bean counters at Scripps run that number.

I wonder how the discussions went inside the Publisher suite on the new paywall.  I bet they said, "We have loyal readers."  "What alternative local news sources do they have?"  "We offer premium local content which has value." 

Who suggested pricing the digital version at $14.99 per month, when Scripps' other Texas papers offer the same service for $9.95 a month?  Let's assume the Standard Times' loyal online readers were willing to consider paying for access   How might they feel showing up one day to find the rules changed overnight?  The vibrant online community didn't have the opportunity to discuss their reactions, give any advice or share their plans.

Also, I wonder how much the active online community contributed to the overall value proposition?  With community interaction gone, how much is the site worth per month?

The Standard Times razed its active online community in the interest of profit development.  This is a metaphor for San Angelo, from Lake Nasworthy to the Cline Shale, which will boom, then bust. What's coming may be premium priced, i.e. not for existing users.   

1 comment:

Jim Turner said...

I talked to one of the editors from the Standard Times at a local job fair earlier this year. He stated that 60% of the content of the paper was reader/user generated. Granted, some of that was letters to the editor and guest editorials and viewpoints articles but a significant percentage was the comments, which draw page views and advertising revenues. I have to wonder if the loss in online market share and page views and the loss of advertising revenues will make up for the very few digital subscriptions they get. I also wonder why they don't offer some sort of Scripps wide subscription instead of requiring a separate subscription for each Texas or Scripps paper. Some of us have followed lots of different papers to keep up on local events. Hard to do now. Ridiculous.