Back in the 1990s and early in this decade, the newspaper industry failed to adapt to a rapidly evolving informational landscape. Technology changed and so did our methods for gathering information and our preferences for what we wanted.
The newspaper industry needs to innovate, and in recent years, it has tried new ideas, but it will take a while before the industry learns what works.
This new addition to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is something new, and it sounds interesting. I'm guessing other newspapers will monitor this project. The Post-Gazette is owned by Block Communications, which also owns the Toledo Blade.
- Aug 31, 2009 - Post-Gazette - Post-Gazette launching members-only Web site
- Sep 1, 2009 - Editor & Publisher - 'Post-Gazette' Editor: New 'Paid' Site is Whole New Flavor
- Sep 1, 2009 - Poynter Online - Post-Gazette President Expects Premium Site PG+ to Evolve
Excerpts from the Post-Gazette story:
The annual membership fee will be $36. Monthly memberships will be $3.99.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette will launch PG+, a members-only Web site with interactive features and exclusive content by Post-Gazette staffers above and beyond what the Post-Gazette already provides in its daily print and online versions. PG+ will not replace post-gazette.com, which will continue to offer the same breaking news, features and multimedia content as always. Rather, it will allow subscribers access to a new stream of exclusive blogs, videos, live chats and behind-the-scenes insights into the news of the day.The new site, hosted by a team of PG bloggers, will emphasize user interaction, with commenting throughout the site. Members also will be able to create a social networking profile to keep the conversation going. PG+ members also will gain access to special Post-Gazette events, along with deals and discounts for sports, retail and entertainment venues.
Excerpts from the E&P story:
"We wanted this to be a site that is more about user engagement, social activity and more blogging," said Deputy Managing Editor Mary Leonard. "It is all new." The paid site also has no advertising. "We feel like you talk about it like you talk about HBO. You bought something and you don't want the experience disrupted," Leonard said.
A peek at the PG+ lineup finds a mix of pay-only blogs and discussions, as well as a Facebook-like online community in which users sign on to post comments, interact with other users and Post-Gazette staffers. Online discussions with journalists and others also will be held.
In addition, two political writers will face off in an online discussion each day, while numerous sportswriters will blog only on the paid site in addition to their regular free site coverage. The newspaper has even sent a new beat writer to cover Penn State football for the first time in years, and blog only on the PG+ site. Subscribers also get blogs from the paper's music writers, gardening expert, and others, as well as photos available only on the paid site.
On the idea of charging for other online content, [Shribman] notes, "journalism has value and good journalism has real value, and we need to support good journalism. I don't know many good furniture companies that give away couches."Shribman said he has added staffers for the project, but declined to say how many new positions. Shribman said the idea has been under discussion at the paper for about a year. He declined to predict its future success, saying Tuesday morning: "We have only been doing it for about 10 hours and 20 minutes. But we are not planning to fail. We have to be imaginative and innovative and once again have some fun in this business."
Excerpts from the Poynter story:
Post-Gazette President Chris Chamberlain told me in a phone interview that the new service, called PG+, was developed and will be run "totally on our own," despite some overlap in concept with the Journalism Online package that entrepreneurs Steve Brill and Gordon Crovitz are trying to sell to publishers.
"It's a way to extend our brand and evolve our business," Chamberlain said. "We talked to a lot of customers ... and tailored it to our market." He added that being first in the industry with a paid content structure is happenstance, not an objective.
Some of the talk about paid content suggests that newspapers make a clean break with free online content, meaning they should stop giving away their expensive-to-produce journalism. However, many in the industry -- including Brill and Crovitz -- think a bonus package like the Post-Gazette's is a logical starting place.The company will be able to assess how many readers and visitors want an extra helping of what the Post-Gazette offers, and which of the PG+ features are keepers. Since the site will not take advertising (at least initially), the math is pretty straightforward: 25,000 subscribers at an average of $36 a year would equal $900,000 in revenue.
I'm not certain PG+ will be a success. But two cheers for the Post-Gazette and its parent, Block Communications, for responding to the challenge, as Elvis once put it, for "a little less conversation and a little more action."
In other news: Community bloggers help power AnnArbor.com