From tons of layoffs, to The New York Times, The Boston Globe and The Wall Street Journal implementing paywalls (somewhat successfully) and The Daily launching as an iPad only publication through Murdoch's News Corp, journalism is a strange place to be in the past 5 years. It has been a tough for this industry for sure.
Sadly, it was seemingly only a matter of time before other sites followed the NYTimes and The Guardian. McClatchy announced on Friday that it would add a paywall to many of its publications, which includes both The Charlotte Observer and Raleigh's News and Observer. A bunch of websites have tried it and failed. Publications like the New York Times work because of quality and reputation. Surely McClatchy has done their homework, but the News and Observer doesn't seem like the best of publications that would acquire a large enough following who are willing to pay for online content. Then again, surely McClatchy's homework and research proves this theory wrong, at least in theory.
I've paid for NYTimes for a year or two now and love the fact that I can get a Sunday paper as well as full online access on a computer, an iPad, an iPhone and the NYTimes desktop application (but unfortunately not on a Kindle). I'm not sure that for a single price, McClatchy can offer a similiar package. The Daily is in jeopardy of failing on the iPad, showing that even that largest of companies can fail at Digital Media. The NYTimes is one of the only publications that seems to continue to survived this physical to digital transition, if only slightly.
How this will affect the local angle of the News and Observer's news is still to be seen. With a paywall, the publication will need to cater to a wider audience, therefore I can see local news suffering on its website and sensationalist stories (murders, John Edwards trial, wrecks, weather, sports, etc) gaining even more traction. With hyper local publications and blogs, like The Independent, New Raleigh, Goodnight, Raleigh!, The Raleigh Connoisseur and Raleigh Public Record all covering that sector of the Raleigh society (and all free online with various 'business models'), it would seem the N&O may not be as interested in Raleigh as a local market. Then again maybe the paywall could bring in more revenue to assign more reporters on local arts and culture (many of which were hit with the layoffs a few years ago).
Regardless of the outcome of this experiment, the proof is there that McClatchy is in dire need of revenue to make its company and publications work in the 21st century. We can only hope they are able to find a creative way to make this work. Otherwise, there may emerge a gap for a newer type of online publication that could overtake the N&O in the coming years. I've got a few ideas of how that could happen, but won't share that here.
Will you pay?
Good luck N&O.
On a side note, this has nothing to do with the "offer that New Raleigh received from McClatchy on April 1st." New Raleigh will always remain free to its readers, in whatever form it takes in the coming months and years.