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Readers Unwilling To Subscribe To Expected stltoday.com Paywall

August 15, 2012 Featured, Media 8 Comments

In the poll last week more than half the readers indicated they wouldn’t subscribe to

Q: Will You Subscribe If stltoday.com (Post-Dispatch) Creates A Pay Wall?

  1. No 107 [60.11%]
  2. Yes, I’d pay up to $25/year for online access 18 [10.11%]
  3. Yes, I’d pay up to $50/year for online access 15 [8.43%]
  4. Yes, I’d pay up to $10/year for online access 14 [7.87%]
  5. I subscribe to the physical paper. 14 [7.87%]
  6. Yes, I’d pay more than $75/year for online access 4 [2.25%]
  7. Yes, I’d pay up to $75/year for online access 3 [1.69%]
  8. Unsure/No Opinion 3 [1.69%]

But some are willing to pay. After the poll closed I began looking at other Lee Enterprises newspapers to see what kind of subscription plans they offered their readers.

The Arizona Daily Star offers a plan that comes out to $48/year, but this sounds like a way to view the printed paper online. I clicked through a number of articles on azstarnet.com and didn’t get hit will a wall notice.

The Missoulian in Montana is different, it does have a paywall. As noted below in their Digital Subscription FAQ,  you can view 15 articles for free in each 30 day period. So non-subscribders aren’t totally shut out:

What is a digital subscription? What do I get when I subscribe?

To get unlimited access to missoulian.com, you’ll need an online subscription. When you subscribe, you’ll get unlimited access to articles, breaking news, photo galleries, blog posts, reader comments, Missoulian archived articles and more. All visitors are able to view 15 pages FREE during any 30-day period (not calendar). Exceeding that amount will result in the need for a digital subscription to continue enjoying missoulian.com’s suite of articles and tools. For more information on the recent changes to missoulian.com, please read the letter from our editor and publisher.

If I have multiple computers at my residence or place of work, do I need to purchase multiple digital subscriptions?

No. You will be provided a username and password to access missoulian.com at your residence, at work, on the go, at a library, wherever. It is this ease of access that allows our customers to obtain news and information instantly, anywhere by logging in with your username and password.

If I already subscribe to the print version of the Missoulian, do I receive a discount to my digital subscription?

Yes. Customers who already subscribe to the Missoulian print edition will receive a hefty discount to their online subscription. Enmeshing the functionality of missoulian.com’s online tools with the print version’s tactile appeal creates a news and information one-two punch unmatched by any other local news medium. For more specific pricing information, click here.

Is my digital subscription exclusive to missoulian.com, or does it include online access to other Lee newspapers?

The subscription package does NOT include access to the other Lee news websites in Montana and Wyoming.

What about viewing missoulian.com articles on my mobile phone? Do I need a digital subscription for that?

No. Mobile-optimized versions of our website and mobile apps do not limit the number of articles you can view. Click here for more information regarding our suite of mobile offerings.

Each time I clicked the link to view the rates I got a “403 Forbidden” error message, not a good way to sell digital subscriptions. So I looked at the Billings Gazette. Very similar to the Missoulian, but only 10 pages are free in any 30 day period before having to pay. I tried the rate button in two different browsers and got nothing.

I actually want to pay the Post-Dispatch something every year because I do get value from the news they provide. Many are cynical but I think we’d be much worse off if the daily “paper” didn’t exist.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "8 comments" on this Article:

  1. robelroy says:

    This is about exactly what you are going to see when the PD puts up a paywall. Your poll says that about 30% of people are willing to pay, I think that is wildly optimistic. Usually less than 1% of the population of a selected area is willing to pay, at least in the first year. Irrespective, the PD will make scads more on digital than it ever did on digital advertising. The common public is horribly ignorant on this issue, and think a paper like the PD makes “millions” on its digital ads. Ugh…sorry folks. Probably a tenth of what you are thinking. Their break even number, that is, the number of subscribers they need in order to make up for lost digital advertising revenue is less than 1000 people and possibly less than 500 people, that is how bad remanant-rate advertising is. (remnant rate being the first 40-60% of ‘lost’ pageviews) The PD newsroom probably requires about $50-$75m dollars to run, and that is just personel costs. In the long long term, the PD is probably looking at needing about 250,000 online subscribers paying $200 per year in order to survive in an online-only world. The Dallas Morning News has over 50,000 online-only subscribers at $200 per, in one year of paywall, so it looks possible. Difficult, but possible.

  2. Justin S. says:

    https://www.stlbeacon.org/#!/coverpage, St. Louis Beacon is a good on line alternative to local news.

  3. If they agreed to hire an editor with the additional revenue, I would be willing to pay a little.

  4. Steve Ungrey says:

    One thing I will mention… the cost of the e-edition in St. Louis is way too high compared to other cities. Lee is asking $25 a month for an e-edition (with a PM update, I understand)… most cities charge between $5 and $15 a month for the e-paper. Perhaps the P-D should try an e-edition promo and see if that gooses sales a little bit.

    • robelroy says:

      Well… there is a good reason for that. What do you think this says about how much the PD is going to cost when they go behind the paywall? This pricing is very similar to Dallas Morning News for their paywall. They have done very well.

      • Steve Ungrey says:

        I see what you’re saying, Rob… my point is if you want the Dallas paper’s e-replica (the one that looks just like the paper, ads and all) it’s only $10 a month. The highest I’ve seen an e-edition offered is Gannett, and most digital editions under the new replica will only be $10 per month. If St. Louis wants to see how many people might buy the e-edition at a reduced price, I’d offer it.

        • robelroy says:

          I was talking about the DMN website access. You are right. The e-edition is cheaper.

  5. The old news hound says:

    Keep in mind that those that responded to the poll are self-selected which is far different from a random selection.


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