The future of newspapers

Vermont Public Radio talked with Catherine Nelson, the general manager of the Times Argus and the Rutland Herald, about the papers' plans to soon gate their websites and charge on-line readers for access.

And here's Rob Mitchell, the special projects editor at the papers, talking about this dramatic upcoming move:

There are two things we're facing in news today: the changing business model, and sustaining the journalism model. As a locally-owned newspaper, our business model is built to support our journalism, not to support shareholders.

Gating our web site will support our business model, which will support our journalism. A strong parallel is your local farmer's market. You can get just abouteverything from the farmer's market at a chain grocery store, but you can't get local produce grown with care, with the personal connection with the grower.

My grandfather believed, as do my father and I, that local ownership sustains that connection with the local community in the same way – we are not here just to make a buck. We make a buck to support our mission, which is to tell the story of our communities and defend the public's right to know.

In our internal discussions, we decided that if people will pay for news in print, they will pay for news online. We are working extremely hard to make it available in alternative formats like a replica edition of the print edition, the web site and mobile sites and apps – to make it available the way people want it. They will pay because what reporters do is very valuable.

Finally, there are non-profit models out there that in effect have a paywall. The VPR model is one – the paywall is the fund drive.

I'd love to hear people's thoughts on this. Will you pay for local news? Will you pay to read local stories on-line?

- Dan Barlow

2 Responses to The future of newspapers

  1. A fund drive such as VPR uses is not a paywall. It does not limit access to the product,there is no walling-off services.
    What is the pay-plan?
    I was hoping for some specific detail about what shape your paywall gate structure is going to take.The General Manager was remarkably vague about what form it will take.This struck me as odd, considering it is to be enacted quite soon.

  2. I’ve been hoping at some point to see some more detailed information on what this entails. I already subscribe to the print version, will this be a separate subscription? Will I get free access for being a print subscriber or at least a discount? Heck, I may be interested in going to a weekend print, weekday digital plan. Don’t have all that much time in the week to devote the time needed to digest the entire paper these days, but being able to read an article here article there throughout the day would probably be handy.