In an interview earlier this year, MediaNews Group executive chairman Dean Singleton talked about experimenting with pay walls at his various newspaper properties. These efforts are now about to get a public try-out at 23 MNG properties -- although none in the company's home state of Colorado. Why not? Vice President of Field Operations Sara Glines explains.
"At the time this strategy came out," Glines says, "we were doing the acquisition of Lehman Newspapers," whose main properties include the Longmont Times-Call, the Loveland Reporter-Herald, and the Cañon City Record. "The way we function, a lot of the same people would have been dealing with this and the consolidation. It would have been a complicating factor."
As a result, the nearly two-dozen newspapers impacted are scattered throughout five states: neighboring New Mexico, plus California, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Vermont. See the full list in the press release below. Moreover, they're all community newspapers, as opposed to some of MediaNews Group's larger operations, like the Denver Post. And that was by design.
"These are areas where there is a strong appreciation in the local community for the journalism that is done there," Glines maintains. "They seem to appreciate the value of that -- and you are not in such strong competitive situations in most of those markets."
This last observation is a key, no doubt. Residents of New Mexico towns such as Deming and Alamogordo don't have as many options as do folks to larger cities. So, presumably, they'll be more likely to pay for unfettered access to local news -- $1.99 per month or $19.99 per year for print subscribers, $5.99 per month or $59.99 per year for digital-only. Those who don't pony up will still have access to the home page, announcements, obituaries and classifieds, as well as five pages of editorial content per month, after which they'll be asked to subscribe.
This past January, at the time he stepped down as MediaNews Group's CEO, Singleton admitted that "there's no certainty pay walls are going to work." However, he continued, "the best reason to have a pay wall is that it sends a message to consumers that all information is not free. And I think having sent the message for fifteen years that it is, we need to send a different message -- that all information isn't free."
Nonetheless, Glines warns against assuming that all MediaNews properties -- including those in Colorado, big and small -- will soon have similar pay walls. "We don't know at this point whether this strategy works well for metro newspapers," she notes. "And we're not looking at all beyond this particular initiative. Time will tell, but at this point, we want to get the strategy in place and work with these communities to make sure we feel comfortable with how it's being implemented and how the community responds. We see this as a finite deal at the moment."
Look below to read the complete MediaNews Group release:
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.