Here it goes. The N&O announced yesterday that it will be putting up a paywall on December 19th:
The News & Observer announced this week that it will begin charging for digital content starting Dec. 19.
The newspaper’s e-edition, which looks the same as the print paper; all content on the N&O’s website, newsobserver.com; and content on its mobile site and iPhone and Android smartphone apps will move behind a pay wall.
This will further distance the newspaper from the news-reading public, which has largely migrated to online sources. It will also stop bloggers like me from linking to N&O articles, because I don’t like including links in my blog that are time-limited or go nowhere.
I’ve said before how paywalls don’t work but it bears repeating.
Another, more troubling aspect of this change is that once print subscribers’ renew their subscription, they will automatically be charged for the print and digital editions, regardless of whether they use the digital version or not:
The cost of renewing a subscription will include the digital package, and will amount to an increase of $2.46 every four weeks or $32 a year. Subscribers will be able to opt out of the digital package and convert to print only by calling or emailing the N&O’s Customer Service Department.
This tactic reminds me of the shameful way AT&T made a fortune off continuing to rent telephones to elderly folks who don’t know any better. Chances are your Aunt Martha still prefers to get her news from a paper newspaper but wouldn’t know what the heck an “e-edition” is. She’ll now be paying an extra $2.46 a month for something she won’t use. Oh, and Aunt Martha is in the demographic most likely to read newspapers. I only hope the N&O makes it crystal clear to these subscribers about their ability to opt-out of this when their new subscription cycle begins.