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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