This is how Stars die.
Lee Enterprises, the long-troubled parent company of the Arizona Daily Star and other daily newspapers, plans to charge readers to access the chain's websites, the company announced Wednesday.
Lee plans to introduce "digital subscriptions" within three months, and to build paywalls at most of the company's websites by the end of the year, CEO Mary Junck said at Lee's annual meeting.
People ask me why I think paywalls will wipe out the Republic and the Star....after all, they might work. Actually I have little doubt that they will "work." Paywalls will result in the paper having moderatly more revenue and dramadically fewer readers. How do you think that's going to work out in the long run? Newspaper owners don't seem to understand that newspapers are like Britney Spears or Paris Hilton...they are famous for being famous. Like forest fires, they generate their own weather. If a newspaper doesn't touch enough people to generate its own buzz then no one cares about its coverage. (I could insert a discussion of breeder reactors here, but I think I've pushed the metaphors far enough.)
Take the Birther Bills, or "Guns in Bars"...no one cares about those bills, and the legislature doesn't spend any time on them. They are a media creation. Here's a fun example. If the Republic was only read by 1,000 people who each paid $1,000 a month for a subscription, then the paper would be in great financial shape, but no one would have heard of EJ Montini or Laurie Roberts, or "Guns in Bars". Those 1,000 who are paying to be part of paper would rapidly lose interest. That's because there would be no buzz. The people they talk to at work would not have the same shared knowledge base.
Try this experiment, look up the Dallas Morning news and read the state stories. How long can you last? About 5 minutes. That's because you have never heard of any of these people and the people you talk to today will not have heard of any of these people, so the Dallas Morning news has no value to you. The Republic has value because you have friends with common interests who have also read the paper. Once it's behind a paywall, that value goes away. Pretty soon you are the only one who has read the paper and you can't discuss it with anyone. Then you cancel. Then they go bankrupt. Or in the case of the Star, they implode.
Won't be long now.