News and Observer Website Will Charge, Adds Paywall This Fall

News and Observer Website Will Charge, Adds Paywall This Fall

July, 29, 2012, by Jedidiah

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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. 

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  • @realmrobson
    07/29 07:23 PM

    When NYT went paywall I continued to use up the free 20 articles per month for non-pay people. Then they cut it to 10, and I stopped (although I think anything linked from their Twitter acct. is free, which is cool).

    I don’t really see myself paying for the N&O (I can read the paper that my office gets if I really want)....and actually it’s tough for me to see them having enough subscribers to offset the traffic they would presumably lose. But good luck to them - hope they come up with a good plan that helps them continue to serve the Triangle.

  • Charles Boyer
    07/29 07:52 PM

    They are only paying right into the hands of their main competition locally, and what appears to be

  • Ian Gertler
    07/30 08:51 AM

    I agree with Charles ... the News & Observer is not The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. While I’ve enjoyed visiting the site during my 6+ years here in the Triangle, I don’t think I’d ever pay to gain information from them ... rather, I’ll just use WRAL as my main source of information even more. I liked being able to see some different perspectives, but can certainly live without them for local market coverage. Regardless, good luck to them ... perhaps they’ll find a solution in this very challenging era for newspapers.

  • JP
    07/30 09:55 AM

    They still use popups. It’s 2012 and they still use popups.

  • Manuel Monserrate
    07/30 10:15 AM

    I can’t say I’m surprised, but at the same time, I don’t see this as being a successful next phase for N&O.  To be honest, I rarely go to the site nowadays to begin with, it’s definitely not the NYT.

    This is definitely a chance for some of the smaller independent blogs to get more readers out there with the mainstream public, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens.

  • Artie
    07/30 01:52 PM

    The N&O is a valuable community resource and well worth supporting. 

    To some degree, this fact is more important than the value proposition of a subscription to any given person. Just think of all the investigative journalism that they’ve been responsible for over the last few years: exposing Jim Black, the former governor,  shenanigans at the DOT, academic/athletic fraud at UNC, etc.

    As this is the primary means of supporting the N&O, I currently subscribe to the print edition, despite being much more of an online reader.  I’ll have to see their new pricing scheme before deciding, but I imagine I’ll be either continuing some combination of online and/or print subscription.

  • SGH
    07/30 07:04 PM

    Absolutely not ! Like mrrobson I read the NYT for the limitted articles allowed monthly.  Hopefully the Wash Post will remain free to it’s loyal readers

  • Aaron
    07/30 07:27 PM

    The Snooze & Disturber.

  • Evangeline
    08/01 09:12 PM

    You guys do realize that as long as you keep deleting your cookies on your browser you can read unlimited articles from the NYT online….

  • Subscribe at work, thanks
    08/03 12:25 AM

    Yeah, seriously: all you have to do when you reach the NYT’s monthly limit is take 20 seconds to delete their cookies (easy to spot in your cookies file) and voila, another 10 articles. I’m guessing the N&O process will be similar.

  • Timothy
    08/03 01:46 PM

    I don’t understand why people pay for any of these paywalls.  It’s not like NYT, N&O, or any of the others offers any better reporting than the numerous news agencies that offer news for free.

    Now, mind you, I’m not saying we, as consumers, should necessarily expect news to be free.  It is a commercial business, after all, and they need to make money to exist.

    But the market as today offers, for free, all the news you could possibly consume on every topic that exists from numerous commercial, nonprofit, and hobby entities, opinion pieces that far outshine editorial pages from countless bloggers, and even some interesting “citizen reporting” from social networks.

    I just don’t see how the dinosaur newspaper business survives long term with paper delivery and internet paywall as their business model.

  • ct
    08/03 08:12 PM

    For people who still subscribe to the paper daily, the question is how much extra the N&O will ask for unlimited digital. If it’s a penny extra per month, no problem. If it’s $20 extra per month, no way. Somewhere in between the price becomes objectionable. I’m sure they have done homework about the price elasticity of demand. Doesn’t mean they will get it right, however, and even if they do it doesn’t mean that the overall publication will pull out of its graveyard spiral.

  • CityBeautiful21
    08/06 10:29 AM

    The most important thing that the N&O provides is investigative journalism of state government and to a lesser extent local government issues.  Take away the N&O and regarding state government, there’s very little reporting left on state government.  Without Laura Leslie, WRAL would have pretty much nothing.

    I love many local blogs in our region, and greatly enjoy New Raleigh, but they are no substitute for a real newspaper with dedicated staff.  Bull City Rising went under the waves last year and despite the valiant efforts of Jim Wise, Ray Gronberg, and others, the Herald-Sun doesn’t have enough resources to throw at the issues that mean the most to the city of Durham.

    We are N&O subscribers and will continue to be so in print. How the paywall affects our online consumption will depend on price.  I’ll say this- if it reduces the number of moronic comments on the average N&O story, that’s worth something to me.

  • rob
    08/08 01:52 PM

    ok so lets get this straight

    the N&O barely does any “investigative” reporting

    and they usually just “copy” AP news sources

    now they want to charge for crappy writing and news we get free else where ?

    great freakin business plan guys

    I’d wish you out of jobs if I didnt have friends working there

    but srsly fire your dinosaur staff and hire some good web designers to give NewRaleigh and IndyWeek a run for their money

    Paywalls only work if people want to pay

    will I ? 

    NO (N&O) NO

  • Richard Slater
    08/08 03:04 PM

    There are just way too many free sites out there for news. I will not pay for news on the internet (nor have I ever in the past), and I imagine many more people have the same mindset.

  • hipstercrite
    08/10 01:06 PM

    Gone in 10 years.  Mark your calendars.

    It’s really too bad - it’s so hard to find good leftism in the media these days….where oh where will I turn in the absence of the N&O ?

  • David
    08/12 03:11 PM

    Hate to say this but I do not think most of us really care. I appreciate a local newspaper just like I appreciate local businesses. But the age we are coming into all news is happening so fast and from so many sources that hearing yesterdays news today is just that, yesterdays news. I hope that there are enough people that will sign up to keep the N&O going but unfortunately I do not think the N&O has a chance of surviving for much longer.

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