Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Print this!

In a previous entry, an anonymous commenter noted that The Post-Star is now limiting certain parts of its content to print only. According to managing editor Ken Tingley's blog, the following sections will no longer be available online: comics, puzzles, TV grids, the horoscope, Dear Abby or letters to the editor.

The wisdom of such a decision is debatable. All the new print-only stuff (save letters) is syndicated content that the paper itself has to buy, so on one hand, it makes sense that readers should have to pay the paper for it. But on the other hand, all the stuff is now available for free at other websites so is it really going to be much of an incentive for web-only readers (who are, by definition, at least somewhat web savvy) to buy the print edition?

This experiment is no doubt the first of many. Newspapers are in desperate straits and are going to try anything to increase revenue... anything short of improving quality and local focus.

The front page print edition headline was an AP story about the slimy character assassination of Gov. Paterson based on a Page Six (celebrity gossip column) piece in the tabloid New York Post. The story was about unspecific rumors made by anonymous people so serious that the governor was supposed to resign over them. The reliable sources [sic] indicated that that the (perhaps mythical?) New York Times expose was supposed to run last Sunday, then two days ago, then yesterday... nothing's appeared yet. Why the AP and other supposedly respected news outlets have been complicit in anonymous, unspecific character assassination propagated by NYC's version of The National Enquirer and presumably Paterson's political enemies is beyond me. But as disgraceful as the AP and others are in hyping this as yet non-story, The Post-Star did choose to run it as its lead, ahead of other decent local stories... which will no doubt be behind a firewall soon enough anyway.

Understandable or not, the paper's action feels like little more than re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic, closing the barn door after the horses have already left or whatever cliché you wish to invoke.

Letters to the editor are another ball of wax. The paper has already done this selectively in the past, with their refusal to publish online a stinging ethical criticism of Will Doolittle's anti-APA series (at a time when they published online all other letters to the editor). But now, they're going whole hog in limiting the spread of public opinion.

As anonymous put it, you'll have to pay to read corrections to factual errors, or rebuttals to the oftentimes summary editorial judgments.

So you have to pay half a dollar to read the voice of the people but the snarky Don Cheap Shot remains free?!

Then again, I suppose that's an accurate reflection of the relative value of the two.


semi234 said...

Did you hear that the NYT begining next year is doing something similar? Although their model is to give you a certain number of articles free per month then charge you if you go beyond that.

I think this is interesting because A. they did something similar to it w/ their syndicated opinion columnists about 5 years ago & yanked it because it was an abyssmal failure & B. the current internet model is the more hits a website gets, the greater the ad revenue they can charge. This new business model of theirs (the Post-Star & the NYT) seems counterproductive to their overall goal of making money.

Brian said...

I've raised this issue before and they say that online and print ad rates are not comparable. The implication seemed to be that the ad rates (per unit of readership) were different. I'm not sure why that would be. An eyeball's an eyeball. If anything, I'd think online advertising would be more effective because you can directly click on a link.

The NYT's old model was a failure because there is demand for syndicated columnists is based on the personality of the writer whereas demand for news articles is based presumably on content and the reputation of the paper in question.

We'll have to see about the new NYT model. One thing about the NYT and other major national papers is their traffic is driven in no small part by blogs who link to them (despite the typical MSM claim that blogs are leeches, it's a bit more symbiotic than they'd like to admit). The more they put behind a firewall, the more that's going to impede this traffic. Though their new model seems like it's trying to balance those two. Of course, smaller local papers don't have much blog coverage to generate that traffic. I mean, who regularly links to the Post-Star besides me?

semi234 said...

"The implication seemed to be that the ad rates (per unit of readership) were different. I'm not sure why that would be."

Percentage'wise, I wonder how much actual profit they get from print ads versus web ads.

W/ print ads, the ad price has to be offset by the actual distribution costs, printing costs, transportation expenses, time & expense in formating for all the other ads, etc.

Whereas web costs, you cut out all the middle expenses that drive up the price. The format is, well, already formated because banner sizes are pretty standard. Also a lot of times websites, how & who they are partnered w/, have like a pool that appear at the top of the page that automatically appears, so there's no real actual work involved on (in this case) the paper's end.

I'm not expecting you specifically to know the answers but it certainly makes one wonder.

Anonymous said...

I subscribe to the PS print version....but I also enjoy reading it on the internet - Do you know if the PS offers a reduced on-line version for the print subscribers ? (Like the Daily Gazette dose ?)

MARQUIL said...

Interesting to note the P-S still allows you to write a letter to the editor online.

Brian said...

Anon: $3.95 extra a month apparently.


DocForbin said...

Take it from me, Ken Tingley is increasingly acting arrogant as the Post-Star's Managing Editor. He assumes everyone's switched to digital cable in the North Country when there are still people who depend on analog cable or the good old standby of an antenna to get their stations and he still wants to get rid of the TV listings in the print edition. I was very pissed off when he got rid of the TV book a couple of years ago. I used that to program the VCR to tape my stepfather's favorite shows. I subscribed to TV Guide but it isn't the same since they don't carry local daytime or late night listings. The Saratogian got rid of their TV book some time back and now the Times-Union is getting rid of theirs and asking people to subscribe to a new magazine.

If I was Mark Frost over at The Chronicle, I'd see the potential goldmine in catering to people who still depend on ink-and-paper TV listings and begin publishing a free weekly TV book.

I'm also mad at Tingley for getting rid of some of my favorite comic strips like Funky Winkerbean, Mallard Fillmore, Wizard of Id, For Better or For Worse and Beetle Bailey. What replaced them aren't funny, especially Bill Hinds' two very patethic attemts at humor Cleats and Tank McNamara; the former almost no one gets the jokes in because nobody cares about soccer in this country despite that asshole David Beckham's holy crusade to make people care about it and the latter uses obscure humor that requires you to have advanced knowledge about it (like that incredibly stupid plotline about Super Bowl pools that required you to know more than the average person knows about probablilty and statistics). I'd rather LOL over Wally's PSTD meltdown or Les having pathetic conversations with the ghost of Lisa about his latest pathetic attempt to become a great author (which will get "remaindered" like every other book he's written).

I think it's time that Post-Star Publisher Rick Emanuel seriously consider firing Tingley and put someone in charge who will bring back the weekly TV book, Funky Winkerbean, Mallard Fillmore, Wiz, Beetle and FBOFW. If that makes people like me look like Luddites, tough noogies, Tingley. @-0

Brian F said...

Doc, I'll have to dissent from your comments about soccer, although I tend to share your assessment of Beckham (who most hard core soccer fans in this country loathe).