Saturday, July 27, 2013

Scripps Paywall & The Standard Times

E.W. Scripps hoped to stem its long newspaper revenue decline by implementing a paywall for digital newspaper content.  The change hurt San Angelo Standard Times readers in that Scripps charged a 45% premium relative to our Abilene neighbors to the north.  It also shut down the Standard Times active online commenting community.  All of the most commented stories yesterday evening had fewer than 10 comments.

Scripps' newspaper revenue decline is pictured above (source: December 2012 investor report. That trend continued in Q1 2013:

Total revenue from newspapers in the first quarter was $99.5 million, down 4.7 percent from the first quarter of 2012.  Advertising and marketing services revenue, at $63.3 million, was down 5.1 percent compared with the year-ago quarter.  Subscription revenue decreased 3.6 percent to $30.5 million

The paywall went up during the second quarter.  The Standard Times implemented theirs in surprise fashion in early May.  Q2 earnings will be out August 5.  Will the paywall have increased subscription revenue as planned?  How might the decline of online eyeballs from absent freeloaders impact advertising?  There will be a story to tell.  We'll see how Scripps spins it in their earnings call.

Update 8-6-13:  Scripps earnings news release had this to say:  "Subscription revenue decreased 1.9 percent to $28.1 million. During the quarter, Scripps launched bundled digital and print subscriptions in 11 of its 13 markets.  More than 20 percent of subscribers established their digital accounts with full access to content on their smartphones, desktops and tablets. The rollout was late in the quarter and therefore did not impact second-quarter subscription revenue."    

Note:  The Standard Times paywall went up May 1, meaning it was in effect for two full months of the second quarter.  That's earlier than late.

Update 8-16-13:  The San Francisco Chronicle took down its $12/month paywall after nearly five months. 

Update 8-21-13:  As of today the paywall is down and I have the ability to comment at The Standard Times website.  It remains to be seen if this is temporary or permanent.

1 comment:

Jim Turner said...

We had quite a discussion about this over on ConchoInfo. Ken Grimm, their digital media director and a nice guy, chimed in and gave some good insight from the other side of the wall.