Toledo Talk

Blade Turns Website Into Pay-For-Access

I chuckled when I saw that the Blade is now trying to convince website visitors that its content is worth $5.99 per month to non-subscribers of its print edition (if you sign up for Sunday delivery, it is only $4.99 per month free if you pay them $4.99 per month for the Sunday paper). When you click a linked article, a popup emerges that blocks the article, and the popup advises you that access plans start at this low, low price; the site is "free" if you are a print subscriber... err... I mean if you are a "member":

Blade pay site

Now, I might actually consider forking out a few bucks if the site had value, but the Blade website is almost worthless:

  • Much of the content is regurgitated AP content I can get elsewhere for free;
  • The search function has been broken for longer than I can remember;
  • At times the site has more ads than content;
  • Some of the ads cause browsers to hang up (yes, I have tried browsers other than IE);
  • The mobile version does not work on my relatively new HTC phone, but often when I am on my laptop the server sends me to the mobile version instead.

I could go on and on, but the folks at the Blade must be whacked out on meth if they think there is much of a market for such a crappy Web product. The biggest irony, though, is that the popup does not always work; even the Blade's efforts to raise a little Web revenue suffer from a poor Web design.

Any insights, paulhem?

created by historymike on Dec 18, 2012 at 11:10:01 pm     Media     Comments: 28

source      versions      1 person liked this


Comments ... #

I should not publicize this site hack, but it seems like the popup only works on the first browser you open. If you open the Blade in one browser, then simultaneously open a second browser, the blocking popup pimping the new subscription policy does not do its blockery and pimpery.

posted by historymike on Dec 18, 2012 at 11:13:18 pm     #   1 person liked this

Here is some Blade commentary from a day or two ago by Jack Lessenberry that discusses the Blade's decision to charge for online content "create memberships" to raise revenue. Of course, you must pay to read the article purchase a membership to read the article.

Or follow my above site hack until the Blade's programmers fix the vulnerability.

posted by historymike on Dec 18, 2012 at 11:19:43 pm     #  

also (and I kind of agree) http://www.toledoblade.com/JackLessenberry/2012/12/16/Charging-for-online-news-content-makes-sense.html

posted by upso on Dec 18, 2012 at 11:19:48 pm     #  

Whoops - sorry, I missed that one, upso.

<slinks back to Tardyville>

posted by historymike on Dec 18, 2012 at 11:20:26 pm     #  

whoops, looks like we're posting at the same time! :)

posted by upso on Dec 18, 2012 at 11:20:28 pm     #  

delete you cookies and the counter resets

posted by jhop on Dec 19, 2012 at 10:05:31 am     #  

What HM says about the amount of regurgitated AP content is absolutely the biggest problem. People will crawl through technical problems if the content of the site is valuable.

However, there are so many times (especially on the weekends, but during the week too) when I quick check out the homepage for headlines and see all four "highlighted" stories (the top of page lead and the three sub-head stories) are all AP or other wire content. I know its slow on weekends, but during the week?

A week or so ago, the headline (!) story was about Republican-turned-Democrat former Florida governor Charlie Crist. For people in Toledo...headlines about Charlie Crist??? Somebody from 8 states away who isn't even in office anymore? Who. Gives. A. Shit.

Unique content? The crime stories are good reading sometimes. I like Dave Hackenberg's work. Marilou Johanek is an airhead...she should've stuck to reading her prepared scripts on television. But I'm not old enough to care about the obituaries every day. I'm also not pouring through the weekly specials advertisements. Local sports and scores I can get from TV stations. Comics are either (for free) on comics.com and arcamax.com. And the next time I care about what JRB thinks about important local issues will be the first time I care about what JRB thinks about important local issues. Hasn't he, and his house organ, done enough damage to this city? Why would I want to fund more?

Oh, and I don't get sexually excited when I read "the former Medical College of Ohio" in print every day. Maybe that's my problem....

posted by oldhometown on Dec 19, 2012 at 11:06:55 am     #   3 people liked this

Not to be snobbish, but this really does not effect me...as I get my news from the likes of BBC. When I read the Blade, it's typically for free at a dinner of some sort. I hope this works for them, but paying for news...when there are so many news sites just seems....

posted by OhioKimono on Dec 19, 2012 at 11:43:54 am     #   1 person liked this

We get the Blade at home. I like reading a paper and use the puzzles to try to keep my mind sharp. Of course obits are important to us old folks.

The only thing I use online is to send obits of my husband's Scott 1949 classmates to those still alive.

Our children rarely read newspapers. Guess it is the new world out there.

posted by jackie on Dec 19, 2012 at 12:16:47 pm     #  

We get the paper delivered every day, but only read it a couple of times per week. With the Sunday coupons the paper basically pays for itself, but after the New Year, weíre going to go Sunday only and save the recycling bin.

I canít see paying for the online version, but it does take money to put together the news and itís certainly in their rights to charge for it.

posted by SensorG on Dec 19, 2012 at 12:29:10 pm     #  

"Not to be snobbish, but this really does not effect me...as I get my news from the likes of BBC"

No interest at all in local news? (Not saying Blade is the only source of local information, but it beats anything else out there in my opinion.)

posted by McCaskey on Dec 19, 2012 at 12:54:04 pm     #  

Agreed McCaskey. Local is important and the Blade is the only comprehensive source. A 1 minute sound bite on local TV doesn't get it done.

posted by holland on Dec 19, 2012 at 11:56:35 pm     #  

So it looks like I can now view articles freely on The Blade website. Did they give up?

posted by slowsol on Dec 27, 2012 at 09:47:58 am     #  

It seems very hit and miss. Sometimes I get them, other times I don't. I usually just open in another browser if I get "hit" by the paywall. Also, if the article is really short (and a lot of them are), I'll just read it line by line above or below the paywall picture. It's more of an annoyance than an incentive to pay.

posted by MarcMc on Dec 27, 2012 at 10:37:57 am     #  

Block Communications should consider making the online Blade free for Buckeye Cable subscribers. It would be a nice gesture for existing customers, and perhaps an incentive for new ones to sign up.

posted by mixman on Dec 27, 2012 at 03:29:50 pm     #  

It's almost 6PM on Thursday, December 27, 2012. All four Blade feature stories online are wire service stories. All. Four. Stories. Apparently, nothing worth highlighting went on in Toledo or the surrounding counties today.

----------

"Fiscal deal still eludes both sides as deadline nears"

"2012 Military Bowl" (OK, this is "local", but a feed from a wire service...not Hackenberg or someone blogging live during the game).

"EPA chief Lisa Jackson resigns"

"SeaWorld planning to go public"

-------------

Someone tell me again what spectacular content I am missing from the local paper that I can't get elsewhere?

Someday, when I have time, I'll do a content analysis of the dead-tree version of the Blade. Just eyeballing it, the entire first section, the sports section, and the Arts/Peach sections are at least 80-90% wire service content. The Second News Section, where most local stories are, often times consists of a few important (usually crime or "tearjerker") stories, but most seems to be short blurps that regurgitate the police blotter.

If Paul Hem reads this, all I'm saying is that the content is not sufficient to expect people to pay for what is freely available elsewhere. At the very least, re-think how sections of the Blade are put together and perhaps put a premium on reporters who produce good local content that many local readers find valuable.

Not expecting the Blade to have reporters on the ground all over the world, but c'mon--what do you have that I (your valued consumer) find indispensable???

posted by oldhometown on Dec 27, 2012 at 07:04:27 pm     #  

Oops, I take back the Blade BGSU story not being local. Didn't scroll down far enough to see that a reporter is "live blogging" the game.

Mea culpa...mea culpa!

posted by oldhometown on Dec 27, 2012 at 07:06:13 pm     #  

There was a local story on the portable cameras today. How many, where the vast majority have been placed, and the effect. Their were complaints about the blue lights. They are annoying at night in my opinion as off in the distance in heavy traffic it can be mistaken for an accident scene.

posted by MrGlass419 on Dec 27, 2012 at 07:24:04 pm     #   1 person liked this

Local article also that McNamara cast the sole dissenting vote against a pay raise for four officials.

posted by MrGlass419 on Dec 27, 2012 at 07:31:41 pm     #  

So on the local news discussion topic I went to the Google news feed and clicked on Toledo, the first 8 articles were from The Blade and 13 of 20 on the first page were articles by The Blade. Apparently Google has spoken on what they feel are the most important local news sources.

On the discussion of younger people not reading the newspaper anymore - It's painfully obvious most people don't. Have a conversation with most people and they have no idea what is going on in their own metro area. It's not that they are getting their news from other sources. It's the sad fact they only care whats E tv, espn, or the next viral video.

posted by MrGlass419 on Dec 27, 2012 at 11:41:25 pm     #  

I was once a Blade subscriber, but alas given it up. But I have mentioned in other posts that I would wish they would offer it online even for a fee. So I must say I'm happy. However as is, still not hooked yet.

They went far, but not far enough for my needs. What I would like to see, is for it to be offered via Amazon. Just like MANY other big metro newspapers.

If I can subscribe there, have it autodownload to my Kindle to read in the morning, then I'd be 100% all in.

Just my $0.02.

posted by INeedCoffee on Dec 28, 2012 at 12:57:49 am     #  

I was once a Blade subscriber, but alas given it up. But I have mentioned in other posts that I would wish they would offer it online even for a fee. So I must say I'm happy. However as is, still not hooked yet.

They went far, but not far enough for my needs. What I would like to see, is for it to be offered via Amazon. Just like MANY other big metro newspapers.

If I can subscribe there, have it autodownload to my Kindle to read in the morning, then I'd be 100% all in.

Just my $0.02.

posted by INeedCoffee on Dec 28, 2012 at 12:57:50 am     #  

"On the discussion of younger people not reading the newspaper anymore - It's painfully obvious most people don't." - MrGlass419

I tend not to read printed newspapers at all... mostly because I don't like the blank ink left on my fingers. I enjoy keeping up with local news, so I read it online.

The same could be said for broadcast news... I don't watch much TV, so again... I read everything online. I prefer to read over watching video, so when a story shows up on news sites in video form (with no link to read the actual story) I'm like :/

posted by toledolen_ on Dec 28, 2012 at 08:35:52 pm     #  

"...but paying for news...when there are so many news sites just seems...."

Enjoy the "free" sites while you can because the new business model for onsite media requires a small fee for access. Many, I've noticed, have already implemented it.

I am not a big fan of The Blade, but gathering the news has "value" and journalists should be paid for their work. I have a friend who is a journalist and I know he works long hours. Just sayin. I think $5.99 per month is justifiable.

posted by bikerdude on Dec 29, 2012 at 01:31:24 am     #   1 person liked this

I do not think this debate is settled by any stretch, bikerdude. For every pay site there are plenty more free sites, and I think what will probably be the norm in a few years will be a free site with add-on features for which subscribers pay.

If the Blade listened to me (hahahaha) they would offer select eye-catching local news stories for free and then charge for access to other features (think of this as a loss-leader model). The New York Times has tried probably a half-dozen pay schemes in the past decade to try to monetize the Web, but so far they are struggling to make this work. The new paywall system NYT launched last year is at least bringing in more revenue (you can get 10 free articles per month before the paywall hits, though you can still access any linked item from Facebook and Twitter) but it is unclear if smaller papers can pull this off and increase profits.

posted by historymike on Dec 29, 2012 at 10:49:40 am     #   1 person liked this

Mike there are plenty of free sources. With the current disruption of print to digital, it also brings a dramatic decline in quality as their is less revenue. Real news sources fold or continue to shrink which leaves the web user generated garbage and disguised advertisements as articles.

It makes logical sense that journalism should be free and Google should make billions for not producing it and linking to it.

The model is broken, something will change, or we'll be left reading Toledo Free Press advertisements.

posted by MrGlass419 on Dec 29, 2012 at 04:11:53 pm     #  

Very sad when you consider that the Blade previously had a lot of award winning investigative reporters including Mike Sallah, Joe Mahr, etc.

posted by corky on Dec 29, 2012 at 07:28:50 pm     #