My local daily newspaper - admittedly a dying breed - recently announced a change to how readers would be "accessing content." Gone are the days of "reading a newspaper." Now, we access content, online, and after being spoiled for years with free access to that online content, the business model has changed. The question is - will readers pay for what they used to get for free?
The local paper in my childhood town went that route last year. I used to be able to catch up with hometown happenings via the paper's website. At my age, this mostly involved reading the obits for news of my late parents' friends and the occasional former classmate, as well as who got busted for drugs, DUIs and the like. You know, as one does. Suddenly, all I could access were the headlines. To get the rest of the news, I had to subscribe at $10/month. My workaround was to download their app - which is awful in terms of design, quality, and timeliness of the news (their motto, which makes me laugh every time, is "Today's news today."). But pay $10/month to access the meager content of a tiny paper in a town I no longer lived in? I don't think so.
The Ann Arbor News became AnnArbor.com a while back. The paper, which was actually called AnnArbor.com (whut?) went from a daily to a Thursday and a Sunday edition, although the subscription cost didn't seem to adjust too much. The online content - well, I can't really remember the online content at the moment, but it must have been decent because I soon canceled my paper subscription. If I recall, there was also an option for online access to the news presented in a newspaper layout, for about $10/month. I declined, especially after I was assured I could still get all the same news on the website (not their best sales pitch, right?).
The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus (LCP for short) has made several changes to their web-presence over the last year, and none of them for the better, in my opinion. The current iteration of their site is ugly and slow, with videos and advertising that causes pages to shift and refresh. The sales pitch for paying for online access includes USA Today - like this News For When You Have 5-Minutes Before Your Plane Leaves was some kind of special bonus.
My favorite part? This, from their Q&A about "the new Livingston Daily":
Why are you making this change? Why should I pay for something that has been free? Our readers access our unique, high-quality content in a number of ways. Adopting a full-access subscription model allows us to keep our product strong — and make it better — as readers increasingly choose to access our product on multiple devices at any time. In conjunction with this effort, we are investing in the unique content we deliver across all platforms.
What...what does this even say? I think it says that the news they have been reporting for decades is now, somehow, "unique content." And because I might read it on my phone, I have to pay more. And I think this is bullshit.
One upside? I doubt the folks trolling the comments will be willing to pay for the privilege.