By: E&P Staff
The Record in Stockton, Calif., is one paper already finding success in the great paywall experiment.
Publisher Roger Coover, who is also president of the Record’s parent company, the San Joaquin Media Group, said his newspaper’s expected loss of online visitors has been lower than projected. The Record figured it would lose half its viewership online and unique users, but has lost just between 30 and 35% of its page views and only a quarter of its unique users.
“The reason we went with this model was to say, ‘There’s more content online than there is in print, and if we’re going to value that, we should charge for it,’” said Coover.
“You always hope it’s going to go better than your hypothesis,” he added. “We’re very pleased with the early results.”
Visitors to recordnet.com can still see the headlines on the homepage for free, and can access three stories a month without registering with the site — or 10 after registering, and the paper has about 10,000 readers registered for that access. Those who want to read more have to pay an introductory price of $34 for 12 weeks, $59 for 6 months, or $119/year for online-only access or an additional fee of $10 for 12 weeks, $13 for 17 weeks, $20 for six months, or $40 for the year on top of the price of their print subscription.
Subscribers who use E-Z Pay, however, get combined print/online access for a little less than what they’d pay for print only. Coover said that strategy is used for those readers who were concerned about price, but it hasn’t made his subscriber base switch to E-Z Pay in droves: “Its about providing options for people.”
Those who follow data on paywalls closely, however, know that newspapers that are the primary source of local news in their region have a much better shot at making online content pay off. “As far as Stockton, in local news, we have a corner on that market,” said Coover.
The more popular content that accessed behind the paywall: reports on local crime or big fires, police stings and obituaries, the last of which was put behind the paywall after much internal debate. The appeal of the other topics? “Part of the reason they want to know that, is they want to know if it’s taking place on their block,” Coover said.
Other papers owned by the Dow Jones Local Media Group are paying heed to the Record’s numbers, and in time may adopt their own paywall strategies.