Struggling WaPo Considers Online Paywall

Struggling WaPo Considers Online Paywall

The Washington Post is poised to initiate a paywall in 2013. The Post is one of the last major American papers to look into putting some parts of its publication behind a subscriber-only Internet screen.

The Wall Street Journal reports that The Washington Post is preparing a “metered paywall” for its Internet site. A metered paywall allows readers to see a few articles per month before blocking any more access and informing the visitor that he must pay to read further.

But ahead of this new attempt to improve revenue, The Post has been seeing a steep decrease in earnings.

The Post is dealing with a steep decline in its core business of print advertising. Its newspaper division reported an operating loss of $56.3 million for the first nine months of the year, reflecting a 14% decline in revenue to $160.7 million. The company lost its chief revenue officer in the spring, and the search for a replacement continues.

The Post has seen quite a lot of trouble recently, with a shakeup in leadership as publisher Katherine Weymouth canned executive editor Marcus Brauchi and replaced him with the former editor of the Boston Globe, Marty Baron.

The abrupt shakeup caused The New York Times to launch a scathing takedown of Weymouth’s leadership, saying she was “overseeing the decline of one of journalism’s crown jewels.”

Thus far, few of these paywalls have seen great financial success. The Minneapolis Star Tribune, for instance, has experienced a new online subscriber rate that only measures up to 5.7% of its print subscriber base, New York’s Newsday has seen a paltry 1,000 subscribers sign up, and this week The Daily announced that it was shutting its iPad service down entirely despite that it was once touted as the best way to save the news industry.

The New York Times tried it once, dumped the idea, and is now trying it a second time. The Times’ latest attempt at walling off some content from free access, however, has thus far been considered a successful venture.

But ad revenues have fallen by half since 2005, and the newspaper industry has been bleeding cash and laying off staffers in every corner of the country. Finances have gotten so bad that many long-established, legacy newspapers have been forced to sell off their showplace headquarters buildings and move into cheaper digs.

Of course, most of these papers share a similar progressive point of view. As the Old Media establishment fades each day with revenues in freefall, one wonders why none of them have tried to just report the news honestly and see if that might help reverse their downward spiral?