September 30, 2013

Dallas Morning News hits a new online-only low in teh stupidz

The Boboes of Beloville announced a month or so ago that they were canning the paywall on their website, but that they would come back with a premium site in a month or so that would be paywalled.

I joked then that all they would really have  in terms of premium content was blue-haired/big-haired ladies at society bashes in Highland Park or Preston Hollow; JFK assassination anniversary memorabilia, or Dallas Cowboys swag, and that trying to run a premium website off those three was bound to fail.

Oh, silly me!

The Snooze has more to offer.

Part of the premium website's paywall "come-on" sales pitch? The Snooze tells us we can buy our way out of seeing so many ads!!! Apparently the Dallas Morning News is betting its readers are too dumb to know about AdBlock if part of the sales pitch for its new premium website is "seeing fewer ads." (Doorknob help us all if the paper's marketing staff [since IT people wouldn't be this dumb, but see below] find out that some of us use Ghostery or other add-ons that block tracking cookies.)

Plus, analysts note the Snooze has struggled to find the paywall sweet spot for some time.
The News’ plan “is something of a disappointment,” said Barry L. Lucas, senior vice president of research for Gabelli & Co. in New York. “It’s the second or third go-round for the website.”
Meanwhile, Jason Dyer, chief marketing officer for The News, says:
 “What we’re going to sell is experience,” said Dyer, who joined the newspaper in January from Google. “I don’t know if there’s anything like it.”
They say insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. I guess Dyer calls that "experience." Especially when somebody coming from Google, and to a halfway techie city like Dallas, thinks people will fall for this as a selling point, the "fewer ads."

And, the mainstream media continues to hang itself with its own rope.

But wait, that's not all!

The premium website is free if you have a hardcopy subscription.

What's really at work, IMO, is "captive audience pageviews." This is going to be used to attempt to sell premium ad space to premium advertisers on the premium website at premium rates.

Good luck with that, premium "experience" and all.

But wait again, that's still not all.

Since the Snooze, per the story, doesn't break out digital-only subscriptions, this seems like an el cheapo way to jack with pageviews in general. And that too coming from someone who used to work at Google, home of the Silicon Valley where tech companies tell us counting pageviews is yesterday's news.

I know Mr. Dyer is a marketing guy, but, at the same time, he came from Google. Surely he's heard of AdBlock (or Plus) once or twice before. Perhaps even of Ghostery. It's an insult to reader intelligence, a double insult to the intelligence of online-only readers, and also a blatant attempt to game the world of pageviews. Given that the Snooze is only No. 16 in terms of digital subscriptions, it's also no wonder it doesn't break out digital-only subscription numbers. They're probably pathetic for a major daily.

Update, Oct. 10: Belo just sold the Riverside Press-Enterprise to Freedom Communications/Orange County Register. As much as I've bitched about the OCR doubling down on advertorial content, at the same time, it's doubling down on newspapers. The move is a smart "clustering." The price is probably a bit steep for today's newspaper world, for the paper itself, but, land in Riverside County is always worth a buy. That said, is the Providence Journal up for sale next?

Update, Oct. 25: Yes, ProJo may be for sale in the near future; perhaps yet another round of staff cuts there is supposed to make it a more attractive buy.

Update, April 10, 2014: If my words on the stupidity of a "premium" website aren't enough?

People should read this piece by Jack Shafer. Shafer gives a good smackdown to the NYT's "Premier" premium website in specific, and to the concept of "premium" newspaper websites in general. Folks in Dallas, Boston, and likely San Fran, who think they can "sell" a premium website while keeping a totally free, totally unpaywalled basic one, should take note. But almost surely won't.  

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