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Paywalls To Soon Block News Sites In Virginia

By Greg L | 7 December 2012 | Local Media, Blogs | 6 Comments

The Washington Post, in an article which rather strangely reports on the Washington Post as if it was a third party, announced that it is “reportedly,” according to unnamed sources, considering putting up a paywall on their online edition.  In addition, the 80 local newspapers sold by Media General to Warren Buffet (less the Manassas News & Messenger which is getting shut down) will all soon gain paywalls as well.  If you’re in Virginia and depend on the internet to keep you informed, a significant source of your local news is going to disappear in just a few short months unless you are a subscriber or want to fork over a few hundred dollars a year for website access.

A paywall would require that users pay a monthly subscription in order to access content on their website, which for the Post would likely be in the $10-15 per month range.  As far as what the billionaire Buffet will want to squeeze from you in order to read the Richmond Times-Dispatch online, it’s anyone’s guess.  This is clearly an effort to boost revenues for these financially-struggling operations, but as has often been the case with local mainstream media, the business decisions they tend to make only hasten their hurtle towards insolvency.  In this kind of economy, raising the cost for readers is a sure-fire way to end up with a lot fewer of them.

This will likely be a boon to the exploding market of locally-focused news websites that have been popping up lately, such as PotomacLocal (and their recently announced ManassasLocal site), NOVA Today, and The PWC News Network, all of which have announced plans in just the last month to provide free local news coverage in Prince William County.  Patch may stand to benefit as well, since in a lot of localities it might be the only online alternative for news, and has already established itself.  As the local mainstream media continues to self-inflict moral head wounds like this that reduce the quality and scope of their news coverage while simultaneously raising prices for consumers and advertisers, there will always be someone eager to provide more, and cost less.

Bloggers that write using their own research are going to win big here as well, and might even end up with advertising revenue opportunities after these paywalls are erected.  Will there be a new Sheriff in every town in Virginia soon?  I’d suspect that could be a very good thing.

UPDATE: The WashPo has shut down the VA Politics Blog. This is starting to happen sooner than later. (12/10/12)

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  1. Just the Facts said on 8 Dec 2012 at 8:27 am:
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    Greg, I agree. Paywalls could mean the end of many papers, including the “Post.” I regret that also because Jeremy Borden has been doing some great work and reporting around here. He’s by far the best reporter the “Post” has assigned to Manassas/PWC since I’ve been living in this area. If the “Post” makes this move, I expect that few people will buy the subscription and thus many will lose access to the work Jeremy has been doing.

    The “Post” has survived up until now because of its profitable subsidiary, Kaplan, Inc. and its cable TV and Internet businesses. Only 15 percent of WPO revenue came from the newspaper business in 2011. However, Kaplan, as a for-profit education company has been having its own problems. Because of a variety of changes instituted by the Obama administration, the for-profit education sector has been hit hard. It’s questionable how much longer Kaplan and the other WPO businesses will be able to continue subsidizing the “Post.”

    The paywall is obviously a last-ditch effort to survive. The “New York Times” is a more national paper and has had some success with a paywall. The “Post” is not regarded as a national paper to the same extent. With the drop-off in readership that will come from the paywall, advertisers will flee, thus reducing that revenue.

    Morningstar is somewhat more optimistic and rates WPO stock four stars. They write:

    “Additionally, the education and newspaper assets continue to struggle against severe structural headwinds, and since there is no sign of imminent recovery over the next three years, consolidated results may remain lackluster in the future. However, we believe the Post’s conglomerate structure obfuscates the strong fundamentals of the cable and television broadcasting assets, which we think represents the vast majority of the company’s value.”

    I agree with you nonetheless that this will be a great opportunity for small, local news organizations and blogs. Even if the “Post” survives on the basis of a little paywall revenue, and subsidies from the company’s education and cable TV segments, people will still largely turn to CNN, FOX and other still-free websites for national and international news, and to the local providers for what’s going on in their communities. Local bloggers – get your engines running.

  2. Just the Facts said on 8 Dec 2012 at 8:39 am:
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    I forgot to mention that Warren Buffet’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, owns about one-quarter of WPO. Here’s an interesting article that discusses Buffet’s media holdings:


    One might conclude that the public’s reduced and falling access to news in Virginia and elsewhere could be attributed to Warren Buffett.

  3. Trying To Understand said on 8 Dec 2012 at 9:16 am:
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    Having a Sheriff in every town would help revive citizen interest in civic issues. I certainly pay more attention now.

  4. Anonymous said on 8 Dec 2012 at 10:17 am:
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    You get what you pay for.

  5. Jack Slimp said on 8 Dec 2012 at 4:53 pm:
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    I like the Washington Times — a no “twisted facts” newspaper, and it zeros in on relevant items nationally and regionally. Not a Manassas news source, and not the greatest sports coverage (you can get that on Internet with ESPN) but otherwise a very good source of news. It’s only a 5-day printed paper, but subscribe, and also get free email news 7 days/week.

  6. Anonymous said on 14 Dec 2012 at 6:18 pm:
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    I thought you conservatives were all for free enterprise. Are you wanting something for nothing? Even your bible, the Wall Street Journal, has all kinds of locked articles requiring payment. Why should I pay a subscription for the print paper to fund your free use of the content on the web. Pay your own way!

    Besides, the internet has already killed print newspapers.

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