Ready to Pay Real Money for the C-J Online?

Who wants to pay?

I’m not. But Gannett announced Wednesday that its papers around the country will erect paywalls, similar to the one put up by the New York Times, to try and get you to start paying for something you’ve always gotten for free. As much as I hate to admit it, it seems that erecting paywalls at news sites is becoming a national trend.

Gannett believes it will boost subscription revenues by 25 percent with the move and boost its earnings by $100 million a year.

My question is — what drug are the decision-makers at Gannett on?

If anything, the paywall will simply reduce the amount of readership for the newspaper.  Well, that’s my opinion. Gannett is likely encouraged by the first results reported on the NY Times, which gained a bunch of subscribers, though there’s debate (at least here) on whether it’s been good for the company’s bottom line.

Subscribers will get to see some content free, but once they surpass a certain number of articles, the pay meter starts.

But even if the NY Times paywall has success, it’s no guarantee that it will work at local newspapers, which have plenty of local competition (TV station sites, radio sites, sites like this one) that report much of the same information and news. The Times has unique content and an international reach.  The C-J has fired almost all its columnists, and it is not going to improve its product by hiring more reporters.

It reminds of another method tried by the paper to boost sales. Think about it — do you really think sales of the Sunday C-J have gone up since they decided to keep some popular items (notably sports columns) off the Internet and only available in print? I’m willing to be proven wrong here, but I’m not believing that plan is working.

I think consumers will look at a C-J paywall and decide that there are plenty of other news sources in which to get their daily fix.