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Question of the day

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* The setup

A South Texas newspaper says it will begin charging for access to its Web site this week, warning that the days of giving content away for free are over.

The Valley Morning Star announced in its online edition Monday that Web site access would remain free for subscribers who receive the print edition seven days a week. But weekend subscribers and non-subscribers will have to pay a 75-cent daily subscription fee for the Web site. Monthly rates will also be available.

* The Question: Which Illinois newspaper(s) would you pay to read online? And how much would you be willing to pay a year for access? Please answer both questions and explain fully, of course.

posted by Rich Miller
Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 11:29 am


  1. None. I can get better cubs coverage on and better politics coverage here or nationally. The tribune and sun-times have been awful for a long time and my day really doesn’t miss either.

    Comment by shore Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 11:39 am

  2. there is no illinois newspaper that i would pay for online access. they don’t cover campaigns, or even really politics, in the state. their analysis of local political/governmental activity is virtually nonexistent. and if i’m looking for coverage of sports, i go to other sites anyway. it’s really difficult to have moved from markets where things are covered more thorough and much, much better. i’ve never been satisfied with the local newspapers in illinois…

    Comment by bored now Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 11:39 am

  3. I wouldn’t pay for any Illinois newspapers online. I quit buying the print editions about a year ago after reading two or three newspapers every day of my life since the age of seven. The quality and quantity of readable stories declined so much that I as a reader was insulted by what had become of what were once two of the best papers in the country.
    I go to their sites occasionally but wouldn’t miss it if they start charging.
    The only news outlets that I find worth paying for now are CapFax and an occasional Sunday New York Times.

    Comment by Bill Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 11:40 am

  4. Probably none. No way I would pay for the Chicago Tribune or Chicago Sun-Times.
    The only one I might consider would be Crain’s and I might be willing to drop $100 per year for it, but I doubt it.

    Comment by Skeeter Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 11:40 am

  5. I would pay to read the sj-r online if they put there full edition online (we used to have this available with paid subscriptions), and possibly the sun times.

    I would be willing to pay 5 a month, give or take.

    I would be willing to pay a few bucks more for a package that contained several papers, not all owned by the same company, but joined together for a subscription service somewhat like cable tv.

    Comment by Ghost Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 11:40 am

  6. sun-times. $100 maybe. rich, dont even think about charging for the blog dude.

    Comment by MC Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 11:43 am

  7. None at the $.75 daily fee; it’s what I pay for real paper now.

    SJ-R & the Trib. Probably $.25 a day. Would ‘like’ an account so’s I could see the front page story headlines & choose from there.

    Comment by sal-says Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 11:44 am

  8. This is a loaded question.

    There are a few local papers here in IL that have tried to sell their online content, without much success. Some have gone back to giving their content away again, after initially offering teaser paragraphs to entice payment for full article access.

    I suppose I’d consider paying a nominal fee, like $10 a year, to read a paper like the chicago trib or sj-r that I otherwise get for free now. But I think the wiser move would be for popular online providers to enter a consortium where statewide access could be bought on a yearly basis for all, and the profits divvied up by the providers on a per-hit basis. That, I would pay $20 a year for, if online access was otherwise unavailabe. that being said, I suspect this cartel would prove to be about as successful as OPEC in reaching agreement and keeping its members “in line.”

    Comment by Six Degrees of Separation Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 11:44 am

  9. None of ‘em. I’d rather buy the print edition. Funny, we have no problem paying for cable TV even though over-the-air is free. Furthermore, we have no problem paying for extra channels like HBO, etc. And we’re willing to pay to bring the Internet to our computers, but no one wants to pay extra for premium services, such as a newspaper.

    Comment by Deep South Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 11:44 am

  10. I would pay to read the Chicago Tribune online. They are complete idiots over there for giving it away for free. I think the same thing whenever CapFax posts good stuff that’s not subscriber only. I dropped my every day Tribune subscription sometime in 2001-2002 when I just started reading it for free every day without having to recycle it afterwards.

    I would probably be willing to pay $100-$200 for a full year ($10-$15 a month) of total Tribune access online. I don’t know what their traffic online is, but it is the second news source I check every day and I click on at least 3-5 articles per day.

    Comment by siriusly Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 11:44 am

  11. None. There’s better content available online. The bit of local coverage that I’d miss would be pretty minimal and could likely be found free on another website.

    Comment by Anon A. Muss Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 11:44 am

  12. adding: I wouldn’t pay for the Sun-Times on the SJ-R online, their online editions just aren’t good enough to justify paying. I do have online access to Crain’s but that’s because I have a paid print subscription.

    Comment by siriusly Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 11:46 am

  13. I would pay a small fee for the Tribune and the Daily Herald. It would have to be under about $10/year for what they put online or I wouldn’t bother. I would pay more, perhaps up to $40 or so, for more material online.

    Comment by Carleen Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 11:48 am

  14. The Final Call and Capitol Fax.

    Comment by Wumpus Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 11:50 am

  15. I would pay to read “The Southern” online, since it is the only local paper that “serves” the southern end of the state. I dont think I would be willing to pay more than an extremly reduced newsstand price, say $100 per year.

    Comment by Speaking at Will Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 11:53 am

  16. I felt the Wednesday Journal papers (WJ in Oak Park & River Forest, Forest Park Review, Riverside/Brookfield Landmark, etc.) were strong enough at local journalism that they deserved support.

    I’m not sure paying for access to the web is the best way to do this.

    I see some sort of hybrid non-profit and for-profit business model emerging. If anybody wants to discuss it, contact me, RadioNyberg circled “a” Yah00 spot c0m.

    Comment by Carl Nyberg Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 11:54 am

  17. Any newspaper now in print would have to beef up its reporting, both in its depth and in its quality of writing (especially of “local” news and events) to have a chance at online subscritive success. The other things that prompt print buying are the comics, crosswords, and advertisements (the flyers in the Sunday papers are still the best venues for mass advertising for retailers). But how much would I pay to get real news and coverage, that was unavailable eleswhere? 50 cents a day, but it would have to include exclusive “updates” of events during the day with e-mail notices.

    Comment by Captain Flume Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 11:55 am

  18. The SJ-R should. They should include it with their 7 day sub. I don’t care about the non- subscribers.

    Comment by Sky-King Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 11:56 am

  19. None and no I would not pay. As long as I have your blog and NPR streaming for free, I’m covered.

    Comment by I wish I were Mrs. Guillen Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 12:02 pm

  20. Crain’s and the Daily Herald.

    I would pay a flat rate for Crain’s, maybe $50-$100 per year. For the Daily Herald, I might go for a pay-by-the-click type deal. Maybe a penny per article or something like that with a monthly bill at the end of each month. That seems fair.

    Comment by Obamarama Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 12:06 pm

  21. None. If any had enough unique content that they alone were a “must read,” I would consider it, but that is not the case.

    Comment by montrose Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 12:10 pm

  22. If Crain’s wasn’t so damn annoying on the marketing side, I’d consider it. But their web site is nothing but bloat, and I shudder to think what they could be doing with my information.

    I’d pay half what a paper subscription would cost per year.

    Comment by Leroy Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 12:21 pm

  23. I would pay to read just about anything on-line, but I only want to pay by the article. (see below) I would like better access to local stories, and I like to read a few articles for depth after browsing the headlines.

    What the papers have yet to figure out is that the best model would be to offer “memberships” for no cost (but you have to provide a credit card number) where members can browse all the headlines and ledes at no charge. A reader would pay a nominal fee to read the rest of a story (say 10 to 25 cents per story). At the end of the month (or week) your credit card would be charged for the usage. They could have a maximum per month (say $10) after which there is no charge for additional articles.

    I already have accounts with the Trib, NY Times, and a bunch of local papers, but no one seems to have figured out that I (and, I suspect, most people) would pay 10 cents to read the rest of the article.

    Comment by Pot calling kettle Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 12:23 pm

  24. I would probably pay $10-20 a year to read the Trib daily. That is, some reasonable fee that I can forget about for 12 months. However, I completely agree with Flume–the content would have to improve. I also have stated before and believe strongly that its presentation is horrible. I have DSL and the Trib page is bogged down with I don’t know what, but it loads very slowly. The blue text is annoying. The huge banner ads that are at the top now and again are intrusive. It leads with puff-pieces, shock journalism or People Magazine stories. Web 2.0 (I think that’s what the kids call it) is still off-limits to the Trib “webmasters.”

    I guess I’m talking myself out of paying for it. If it wasn’t for the word acrostic in the magazine I would have cancelled my Sunday sub a long time ago. Now it’s in a 2-page “Puzzles” flyer that you have to attach to a clipboard to write on. Dummies.

    Comment by Lefty Lefty Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 12:28 pm

  25. None and nothing, as long as a print edition is available.

    I’m a creature of habit. Sun-Times on the train downtown, Trib on the way home.

    Comment by wordslinger Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 12:35 pm

  26. None.

    If they’re worth it, people will read their material which would mean eyeballs seeing ads… raise the ad rates to reasonable levels instead of the rock-bottom giveaways they are now.

    Comment by Rob_N Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 12:37 pm

  27. As a print reader, I’m covered. Remember when the NYT tried to charge for access to certain columnists, etc. They gave that up.

    Comment by babs Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 12:46 pm

  28. I stopped reading the Chicago and Springfield newspapers years ago. The Sun Times is a particular disgrace and the Tribune has turned to bashing with little research, no understanding and often no basis. The SJR usually carries headlines as “Kids Learn to Wash their Hands”. So much for Illinois’ state of journalism. I read, every day, the “New York Times” and each week “The Economist” magazine. I would not pay a dime for the type of news coverage our Illinois papers provide.

    Comment by A Springfield Veteran Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 12:47 pm

  29. I’m totally with the S’field Veteran on this one. Once Gatehouse got hold of the J-R, only Doug and Bernie were worth anything. I could imagine dropping a sawbuck a year to get those two, but mostly it’s the New Yorker (which I subscribe to) and the NYT (which I get online for free) for me.

    Comment by David Starrett Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 1:03 pm

  30. The question seems to assume a continuation of the practice of packaging information as it currently is packaged in the print editions. With that assumption, some marketing type probably believes that they can just quit producing the paper edition and charge the same thing for online content, without the costs of production and delivery. Hah! What is needed is metered content, where we pay for what we read - and only for what we read. Some will say that you then have readers rather than standards driving the content, but really it’s been like that since the days of broad sheets.

    Comment by Excessively Rabid Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 1:03 pm

  31. The Chicago Sun-Times and Crain’s Chicago Business. Both are worth money to me because of the political coverage.

    Comment by Steve Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 1:11 pm

  32. I pay $10 for the Wall Street Journal. There is no IL paper worth paying for right now..for instance it took the SJR over six weeks to “discover” there was funding for a new office building in the capital bill…..asleep at the wheel or what?

    Comment by CircularFiringSquad Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 1:13 pm

  33. I’ve got bad news folks: If you’re only willing to pay $10-$20 a year, the content’s not going to improve.

    That said, the Tribune, Daily Herald, SJ-R and especially the Sun-Times would really need to overhaul their sites to be worth paying much for. Their content is hard to find, visually unappealing, disorganized, mostly hidden and chaotically branded. What’s the use of great writing and reporting if your readers can’t find it?

    Comment by Just Sayin' Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 1:15 pm

  34. The Trib and S-T would have to signifcantly boost the content and quality of articles for me to pay anything for it. What’s key is options: pay by the article, or pay by the week, month, etc. Pay for three sections (sports, editorials/politucs and breaking news) or pay for the whole thing. Packages for multiple papers is also a great idea. Offer the consumer options and they might take them. But it can’t be at the newsstand price. i doubt that anyone would pay more than $5 a week for any combination of online journalism.

    Comment by KGB Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 1:17 pm

  35. None. Those papers are extremely weak in content. I will pay for internet news sources that cover valuable news items and do so in an in-depth manner.

    Comment by Nero Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 1:27 pm

  36. I already buy the Southtown star, and pick up the Suntimes and the Trib a few times a week.
    But no I would not pay for any on line. If you go to the TV station news site, you have to watch a commercial before the newsclip you want anyhow, so they are getting thier money that way. Maybe the online news will make you watch a commercial before reading the article you want?

    Comment by Third Generation Chicago Native Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 1:49 pm

  37. There should be a low rate (free to $10/yr) for subscribers and a higher rate ($25-$50/yr) for non-subscribers

    Comment by Rod Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 1:53 pm

  38. Sad. I have to say “none”. The local paper is OK in print, but not online. The SunTimes and Tribune are a waste of time.

    I’d buy the WSJ and if Fox does something. Or you.

    The rest isn’t worth a dime.

    Comment by VanillaMan Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 2:00 pm

  39. easy. Chicago Crain’s

    Comment by bodies are burried Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 2:07 pm

  40. None. Times are tough for newspapers and yeah, I get the need to make money but it would be ‘goodbye (online) newspaper’ for me if that were the case. Unfortunately newspaper companies are going to have to find some way to make money in today’s society because they are not too terribly far from becoming an endangered species. Not to say I dislike newspapers - but I am not about to pay for something online when I can get that info somewhere else. Just like them making a profit is a business move…so is me managing my budget. Sucks but it’s the way it is!

    Comment by Sorry Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 2:13 pm

  41. I’d probably pay $5 a month for suntimes if it included soduku, the crossword, and all the articles and comics. I would prefer a package that included other papers, for which I would be willing to pay a little more. Right now, the Suntimes is doing a pretty good job of covering the goings on in Alsip.

    Comment by cermak_rd Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 2:22 pm

  42. New News…Michelle Obama’s father is/was buried in Burr Oak.

    Comment by Third Generation Chicago Native Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 3:29 pm

  43. I would pay for Crain’s online. I will not pay for the Kankakee Daily Journal which charges now and while I don’t know the cost, it is more than $20/yr which is what some people would be willing to pay.

    Comment by Anon Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 3:40 pm

  44. New New News - no he isn’t buried there.

    Comment by Six Degrees of Separation Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 3:54 pm

  45. What about something like a cell phone plan? Pay for access to a certain number of articles each month. I pay around $50 each month for my phone (and it’s not even a fancy one). $15/month wouldn’t be unbearable. I’m grateful the Chicago papers put it online for free and I hope my clicks add up to something for them.
    When so many places give away articles for no charge, it’s hard to remember information isn’t really free. There’s someone who has to go to those meetings, hunt out the documents, ask the questions and put it all together in a way that makes sense for you. Those people need to pay rent or taxes/drive a car/sometimes eat a sandwich to make the news happen.
    And businesses aren’t willing to pay the same for advertising because, thanks to Web statistics, they can know exactly how many people click through those ad links and actually buy something from their site. “Eyeballs on an ad” aren’t enough anymore. Their expectations are that readers should see an add and instantly drop $ on their product, or the ad’s worth nothing. They’re not willing to invest in advertising that isn’t up to whatever standard they’ve set, so online papers can’t charge more.

    Comment by Betty R. Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 4:02 pm

  46. I did pay once but won’t ever pay again.

    We scrapped the hard newspaper a couple of years ago and actually paid about $7/mo for an on-line subscription. Then the paper decided to put everything on line so we dropped the monthly fee.

    Comment by Little Egypt Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 4:12 pm

  47. I would pay $5-$10 a month to read the Peoria Journal Star online. But they would have to make the entire paper available online, including comics, columnists (syndicated and otherwise) and links to national news. Also, It would have to include access to archives.

    Assuming I buy two newspapers a week at the pay box (approximately) I am already spending that much.

    But what the PJS will have to do that other newspapers what go other all-online newspapers have NOT done is to not try to do with with a skeleton staff. And online only newspapers have GOT to do this and scrap their print versions. It’s the only way to get people to stop buying the print version out of habit.

    Comment by Billy Dennis Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 4:51 pm

  48. I subscribe to the daily print edition of the S-JR but am about ready to dump it in a “green effort” to save a toothpick. The S-JR like the Trib and many others have diminished their total number of pages to HLN style news clips buried amongst the personal, car and grocery advs.

    Comment by one day at a time Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 6:15 pm

  49. Zip. Biggest peeve: I’d never pay $$ to subject myself to the whims of techies who are constantly trying to find new ways to make me look at the ads–and they NEVER stop introducing new designs and technologies. (Any other business would have gone under already if they changed user interfaces as often as the papers do.)

    A perfect example is the Times. Irritates the heck out of me that the headlines scroll up and then down as I’m trying to read. Now they’re even trying to gauge where you’ll click when the text moves so that they can “trap” you into clicking on something OTHER than what you’re aiming for–again forcing you to look at something you don’t want to see.

    Second peeve goes without saying: the content isn’t worth the trouble. Unless I wake up one morning and it’s been unanimously decided across the globe that everyone’s dropping print and going to subscription only web-based, I’ll be able to find the content somewhere else before most IL papers publish it anyway. And I trust that even if they did, some entrepreneurial rebel will find away around them to keep the good data flowing.

    If this became a world without print, I wouldn’t pay unless I could cancel my subscription when e.g., the ramp-up to and election season were over. And they’d lose me a bit more each time they tried to implement some clever way to make costs for selective subscriptions higher and more difficult to get/cancel.

    Reading a paper should not be a chore. (First rule of any “information system”–even one that’s paper-based.)

    Comment by Anonymous Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 7:00 pm

  50. Here’s a clue for all the papers, BTW, re: “conditioning”.

    Print = leisure even if it’s only a few minutes. Your mind is open to new things, including ads.

    Technology = productivity, speed, targeted research. No time for nonsense–especially some marketer’s.

    They’re doomed until they meld the two together, and if they manage it, we’re doomed.

    Comment by Anonymous Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 7:13 pm

  51. So what would you do if ALL Illinois print news outlets started charging for online? Just boycott– and not be informed? Do you actually think you can get the quality and depth of coverage you see in the Tribune & Sun Times on free websites like Chi Town Daily News? No way. Reputable news organizations will survive because the need for good information will always exist. it’s just the business model that will need to change, and so far no geniuses have figured it out yet.

    The Kankakee Daily Journal charges for online readers to view the paper, while providing a short story “tease” for free, and they seem to be one of the few papers that is doing pretty well.

    Comment by Cook Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 8:28 pm

  52. Non-profit news is the future. Also, no pay walls. I think there is an opportunity for all-digital local news outlets who connect deeply to the community and are completely transparent. Along the lines of NPR/PBS, imho people would be willing to donate to such an organization even if they don’t get anything special because of it. I donate monthly to some podcasters, cause I value their content and the independence that such funding allows. I’m not sure that there are any “newspapers” (RSS feeds) that I would be willing to do that for.

    Rich, I’d like to know how your operation works. Would you ever consider dropping the pay wall completely? Being more transparent, and setting up a PayPal donation button? Also, what about putting your full post in your RSS feed, and maybe including an ad?

    Comment by wjmaggos Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 8:39 pm

  53. It’s not a boycott, and there ARE other sources of information out there to stay informed. It’s an opinion as to the quality of both the on-line format and coverage–and a statement of my preference as a consumer.

    (Perhaps finding the right business model would be easier if the papers listened to their consumers.)

    Here’s another observation: having both the Times and the Trib available on line for so long has raised an awareness in some that there really isn’t that much of a difference in the papers any longer. Therefore, how would you get ALL of the papers in Illinois to switch to paid on-line versions at the same time?

    As long as one of them kept pumping out the same old information for free, people would go there.

    Comment by Anonymous Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 8:57 pm

  54. ===================
    Non-profit news is the future.

    Yup, that sounds more feasible. With regard to print, product that is in fact good enough to “take underground”. Exclusive. Newsies selling a limited amount of copies at a designated location. Has a nice ring of nostalgia to it, too.

    Too much damage has been done. The change needs to be dramatic. Almost like starting over again.

    Comment by Anonymous Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 9:20 pm

  55. ===================
    Would you ever consider dropping the pay wall completely? Being more transparent, and setting up a PayPal donation button?

    Don’t do it, Rich. You are the “genius” to whom someone referred earlier. I’d imagine I’m not the only blogger who aspires to making enough cash to afford a subscription someday.

    On that note, would you consider one or two “scholarships” a year? lol

    Comment by Anonymous Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 9:57 pm

  56. I’m a regular newspaper reader and used to read 3-4/day between paper and online. However, I’ve noticed the quality of both print and on-line versions really deteriorating lately. The Sun-Times barely gets me through a coffee break these days. The New York Time really stands out in preserving journalism, so I’d pay for it. I’d also love to have my employer pay for access to Capitol Fax and Crains, but I can’t imagine paying much for the thin gruel such as the Trib and Sun-Times.

    Comment by Quizzical Tuesday, Jul 14, 09 @ 10:16 pm

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