Paywalls may be starting to pay off

Digital-only and hybrid digital-print subscriptions drove up total newspaper circulation revenue by 5 percent in 2012, according to a report released this week by the Newspaper Assn. of America. It marked the first circulation gains in a decade, and hinted that the industry’s adoption of website paywalls is starting to pay off. [Read more…]

Jarvis champions relationship-based pay structures

Musician Amanda Palmer (Joi/Wikimedia Commons)

Musician Amanda Palmer (Joi/Wikimedia Commons)

Jeff Jarvis writes that the value of media should be based increasingly on relationships, rather than solely on the content produced.

He cites Google ad exec Susan Wojcicki and musician/artist Amanda Palmer. Palmer had a famously successful Kickstarter campaign for an album she chose to do without major label support. She championed the notion of relationship-building as business model recently in a TED talk:

“By asking people [to pay for your work], you connect with them, and by connecting with them, they want to help you. ‘When we really see each other, we want to help each other. People have been obsessed with the wrong question, which is, How do we make people pay for music? What if we started asking, How de we let people pay for music?'”

Wojcicki applied similar logic to advertising in a post on Google+, writing “In years to come, most ad views will effectively become voluntary.”

If media (as content and as advertising) are voluntary, Jarvis suggests, then the “argument about paywalls — and copyright and the value of content — is the wrong argument. Instead, he writes, “The discussion we should be having is how better to build valuable relationships of trust with people as people, not masses, and then how to exploit that value to support the work they want us to do.”

Washington Post Paywalls Might Sacrifice Public-Interest Reporting

Washington Post building back before the web was even a thing. (Flickr Creative Commons: DC Public Library Commons)

Dean Starkman at CJR has a meditation on what will survive when The Washington Post puts up paywalls for its online content.  Weighing sustainability and readability issues, Starkman mourns the possibility that the Post’s recent shows of public-interest feature reporting won’t rake in audience dollars. He offers a page-one profile of a lower-middle class high school student struggling to make it out of her home town.

“[L]et’s face it,” he writes, “the downer subject, and the five screens of copy, all but cry, ‘skip me.’  It had other obstacles to popularity. It’s written in newspaper-feature-ese, so some of the writing might seem strained, depending on your taste.  I couldn’t find it on my mobile phone, either on the Post’s mobile app or via my browser.  The piece is economics-statistics-free–a smart editorial decision, but it doesn’t leave much room for interactivity.”

Starkman notes that type of public interest reporting is important because it connects elite readers with people and stories they would otherwise never know about. But it also takes months to report and comes, therefore, with a hefty price tag.