Honey, where’s the newspaper?
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.