Print journalism is dying. Good riddance. Stacks of wasted paper and wasted ink are, like the yellow pages, remnants of an industry working to squeeze the last ounce of profit from a decaying, wasteful business model. Last one out is a rotten egg.
First one to build a paywall? That’s a different story. This weekend, the city’s only remaining printed daily paper — The Seattle Times — announced it was erecting a porous-style paywall for its online content designed to force payment from its heaviest users and to provide its biggest fans an avenue to support its shifting business. You can read the announcement and end up not quite sure if there is a subscription level that doesn’t require receiving the Sunday paper — there is, but it will cost you more than $200 a year.
This post is not really about judging the Times for its decision and timing. We’ll remain part of the paper’s loose “community partners” network that features our headlines along with other area partners on the Times homepage — guess that can be considered the “free” section now. We don’t have any clear insights into what kind of business structures, debts and ongoing costs the Times ownership is attempting to keep afloat. It’s not even the first paywall for a major news site in the city. Check out the Daily Journal of Commerce… trailblazer.
This post is an announcement that we see this change at the Times as being another in a long line that have pushed sites like CHS forward. We’re doing what we can to grow with the responsibility and opportunity. You’ve probably already noticed a few more posts about news from City Hall and Olympia in our daily mix. We’ll always focus on Capitol Hill but we also know our responsibility as an outlet for news requires greater breadth. We’ll work the balance out as things move forward. Same as ever.
We’re happy to have cohorts, examples and models joining in the effort. There is a healthy constellation of local, independent, community-minded news sites in our area of the city. We own and operate CHS and the Central District News. We have a steady neighbor in the Montlaker. The Madison Park Blogger soldiers on. Meanwhile, First Hill and Eastlake keep the effort warm if not fully stoked. There are also efforts like the Seattle Transit Blog, The Seattle Bike Blog and The SunBreak that are succeeding in creating an entity that sustains a focused news voice.
How we pull together and survive is a daily experiment. Like CHS, the West Seattle Blog has grown almost solely through advertising revenue. It is a straightforward — though slowly growing — business that — surprise, surprise — fits in about as well as anything with a local media enterprise. The city’s neighborhood news blogs are not dying. Want to advertise on CHS? Here’s how to get started.
There is also a new generation of big media news and information that will move forward in this gap. Capitol Hill-based The Stranger’s Slog has become the city’s leading online voice. The investments by SagaCity Media in the Seattle Met brand continues. And while TV news brands wastefully continue to defend their news at 5 PM, 10 PM and 11 PM turf, there are signs of shifting focus.
Change happens slowly. The implementation of the Times wall is really just another step in the direction CHS and many others have been lucky enough to have been traveling. It’s nice to find out that you’ve been following fortune. The plan, at this point, is to keep marching — and maybe cover a little more ground.