Thursday, August 15, 2013

San Francisco Chronicle pulls down its paywall

The San Francisco Chronicle has effectively pulled down the paywall that it erected in May. It has given no reason for the move. The news leaked out early this week when several past or present Chronicle staffers tweeted about the new strategy on Twitter. Chronicle officials confirmed that all Chronicle content will appear on SFGate at no charge, in addition to the web site, which has been charging subscribers to see some content for about four months. This year has seen fairly aggressive paywall projects at Postmedia, the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star. The debate goes on as to the value of such walls, which in a metropolitan area may ask anywhere from $9.99 a month (Toronto Star) to $19.99 a month (Globe). The most closely reasoned criticism of the paywall is that newspapers face equally unacceptable choices. It's possible to persuade a small percentage of their readers to pay for news but this will not recover the lost classified and display advertising that has been dispersed through other media. More than, online advertising may be impaired by a sharp reduction of eyeballs with the placement of the paywall. Another analyst says there is no way the papers can retrieve lost classified advertising. That business is now dominated by free sites such as Craigslist. Classified advertising is a subtle force in newspaper circulation. Through many decades metropolitan publishers understood that classified advertising was perhaps the most compelling inducement for a reader to buy the paper.   

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