Columbia Journalism Review on Gannett's paywall problems.
Gannett’s fourth-quarter newspaper results, announced Tuesday, were basically miserable.
Revenue at its publishing segment dropped 4.6 percent in the fourth quarter from last year (excluding 2012’s extra week), with advertising dropping 5.9 percent and circulation falling 1.6 percent. The last figure is key.
As Rick Edmonds writes, “Gannett earnings report hints at a coming problem with paywalls.” Indeed it does, though it’s not an unforeseen problem.
The issue is one that will particularly affect newspapers like Gannett’s that have leaned on large print price increases as part of their paywall strategies. For lower-quality publishers like Gannett, which has squeezed profits out of its newspapers for decades, the paywall money has been in print, not digital.
Gannett was particularly aggressive with its print price increases. Problem is, you can only jack up prices 25 percent so many times.
Meanwhile, Gannett finally pulled the plug on what was left of the Tucson Citizen. The paper stopped publishing in 2009, but some intern was assigned the task of linking to local blogs and posting the entries on the Citizen's old website. Quite sad actually. It would have been a lot more dignified to have just shut it down from the beginning.