Paywalls Don’t Solve Everything


Circulation revenues were up for the year (1.1 percent) but down for the fourth quarter (-1.6 percent) compared to the same period in 2012. CEO Gracia Martore explained in a conference call to analysts that the company has now “cycled through” the lucrative introduction of paywalls together with bundled print + digital subscriptions at its 80 community newspapers.

This raises the concern that capturing revenue from new digital subscribers and pairing “all access” print/digital bundles with a big price increase could be a one-time revenue event. Gannett not only failed to continue gaining circulation revenue at the end of the last year, it lost a little, as these subscriptions came up for renewal.

To the media consultant geniuses looking for a quick fix, this infusion of cash is a good thing, but if you’re looking for a long-term, sustainable business model, you have the same issues as you do with print subscriptions: Getting new customers, and getting your current customers to re-up.

It’s almost as if the basics of customer service and sales are the same, and you have to do just as much work pushing your digital editions as you do your dead trees.