Bye Bye Weekend Ritual: No More Digital Newspaper for Me

Honey, where’s the newspaper?

Coffee and Newspaper
Vestige of a bygone era?

Thanks to recent changes in how people get their daily news, that question is quickly becoming an anachronism. Because of this change, Postmedia has recently made some changes of its own. None of the online versions of this company’s newspapers are free to read anymore.  As of last Tuedsay, after surfers read 10 articles, they are prompted to pay a fee for continued access. Postmedia made the changes to some of its papers last year, and time finally ran out on the rest of them last week.

When people first saw this news, I imagine that many reacted as I did: I immediately clicked to a different website in a fit of self-righteous indignation.  I refused to even click on the link to find out how much it would cost to sign up for the digital edition. When I was getting ready to write this article, after having had few days to get over (most of) my indignation, I finally checked it out: for access to the digital edition only, the monthly cost is $10.49. The yearly subscription rate is $125.90, so there’s no discount for a long-term subscription. This isn’t actually a lot of money, but it sure is a lot more than free, which is what it was until last Tuesday.

Today, the Monday of the Victoria Day long weekend, is the first day that this has really hit home with me. It is usually my morning ritual on Sundays and “bonus” days off like today to pour a  big cup of coffee and to take an hour or two to peruse the Internet. Yesterday I was busy, so today was my first day to engage in this ritual since Postmedia put up its paywall. I always (used to) start with the news, and then let things happen as they may from there. Not today. I had to get my news from CBC (OK, but not great for local news) and then (gulp) Yahoo. Yes, I feel dirty.

I suppose I will eventually knuckle under and pay, but I won’t be happy about it, and I’m planning on putting it off as long as possible. I’ll be especially put out if the online version of the paper continues to be dominated by (obviously ineffectual) ads.

I understand the thinking behind this change, and I get that newspaper companies are expensive to run, but I got used to my online news being free. My local paper tried charging before, and they backed off, I assume because it wasn’t working. So why are they doing it again? They’re doing the same thing, but expecting a different result? Isn’t that a common definition of insanity?

I guess the thing that really bothers me is that, while there are still salaries that need to be paid, news is a lot more efficient to gather these days, especially with a nation-wide company like Postmedia. With reporters in almost every corner of the country, and access to international wire services, I just can’t see that producing a newspaper is as expensive, in relative terms, as it used to be. I get that producing a physical paper is expensive, but producing a digital edition, while far from free, must be much cheaper than paying a small army of people to produce and distribute a physical paper. I’m left wondering if the money raised from online subscriptions won’t be used to subsidize the physical version. If so, I would think that a better option would be to charge more for the physical product, and leave the digital version alone.

Unlike the last time they tried charging for access, I get the feeling that this time, the decision won’t be reversed. I get it, but I really don’t like it.

4 thoughts on “Bye Bye Weekend Ritual: No More Digital Newspaper for Me”

  1. I think the problem is that newspapers are losing ad revenue at such a high rate, and that ad spend is just not moving over to the digital side as they’d hoped. So the answer is a subscription revenue model. From what I’ve heard, The Globe and Mail’s online subscription is going better than they’d initially projected.

  2. I guess the newspapers are getting a smaller and smaller piece of the advertising pie overall. It seems to me that newspapers don’t have as many flyers in them as they used too, as well. This might also be a piece of the puzzle.

    I’m glad to hear that the G&M is doing well. (Really!) I don’t think anybody wants our newspapers to go out of business. It just isn’t a lot of fun paying for something that used to be free.

    What about getting access to all of a chain’s online papers? If I could access all of Postmedia’s papers across the country, it might not sting quite so badly. And realistically, the company wouldn’t be giving up very much – I’m sure more people would spend very little time reading news from other cities.

  3. I agree, getting access to a whole conglomerate’s content would be more palatable. The ad dollars are not crossing over to the newspapers’ digital side because the majority of online ads are done through Google Adwords, which can get a much broader (or targeted) reach.

  4. If advertisers have found more effective ways of getting their message out, you can hardly blame them for using it, can you?

    The thing I fear is people (like me) won’t want to pay for news, and professional journalists could be essentially replaced by people who aren’t equipped (financially or in terms of training) to report news, or, even worse, by people who have axes to grind.

    I want my free, high-quality, professionally written and researched news, delivered piping hot to the Internet 24 hours a day, and I’m prepared to stamp my feet until I get it!

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