Daily Progress Erects Paywall

Media General has put up a paywall in front of Daily Progress website content. The media conglomerate entered into a relationship with Journalism Online earlier this year, the company that has developed the “Press+” platform. It limits readers to reading ten “premium” articles each month (no word on what constitutes “premium”) before they have to buy an online subscription, which runs $7/month.

I was an early alpha tester for the then-unnamed Press+ a couple of years ago, when I worked for a magazine, but after reviewing the meager and misguided technical documentation for their product, decided Press+ was much too crude to work. Simply blocking the URL http://s.ppjol.net/pp.js in a program like Ad Block Plus, or running a browser in “private” or “incognito” mode when visiting an Press+ affiliate, are enough to prevent it from working entirely. The whole article is sent to the browser along with the payment requirement—a bit of code is simply used to display a little box above it; suppress the box, which is easily done, and you can read the article.

It’s also based on a model of charging a monthly fee per media outlet, which isn’t how many people read news now—in the Google News era, we sample our news from a great many sources, and are reluctant to commit financially to a media outlet like that. Instead, media outlets need to be charging micropayments on a per-read basis, anywhere from 1–25¢ per article, for which we’d all have a single monthly charge on our credit card. But to work, those need to be aggregated across dozens or hundreds of media outlets, and only an existing online retailer with a huge file of credit card numbers could make that work, which really means Amazon or Apple. (Google is trying this with One Pass, but they just don’t have an existing financial relationship with enough people.) Until that happens, companies like Media General are stuck with solutions like Press+, which a lot of industry experts are dubious will pay off. Media outlets eager to find new sources of revenue to replace sagging print subscription income are understandably flirting with the Press+ model, because what other options do they have?

This obviously leaves me in an awkward position for linking to news from here, since I’d routinely be sending people to articles they may well not be able to read. Luckily, a few alternatives are available. The first is to link to original stories on Charlottesville Tomorrow, which not infrequently is the ultimate source of the sort of Progress stories I tend to write about here. The second is to link to coverage on NBC-29 and CBS-19, which frequently gets their daily headlines from the Progress. While that’s really not fair to the Progress reporters, that does have the benefit of being a useful link. And the third alternative is to summarize stories in more detail, so that folks who cannot click through can still get the gist of the article. This is, again, not really fair to reporters. I’m open to suggestions here!

24 thoughts on “Daily Progress Erects Paywall”

  1. That can explain the enhanced quality of the non-sports copy in recent weeks. Scarce is the number of non-sports stories worth paying for, but scarce is an improvement over what we’re used to.

    So far as lifting stories from the TV sites, do you have a fact checker in your back pocket? When it comes to the written language, those sources can embarrass you.

    An Albemarle dog breeder wins a national Best-of-Breed award and it takes WVIR 4 tries over 4 days to get the correct name of the breed, and that’s with someone holding their hand. TV sites don’t give a damn about newspaper-level accuracy.

  2. Congrats. we just ready to send #5 off to college.

    I have come very close to pulling the trigger on the NYTimes pay per view as it often has so many stories that I end up skipping. Try to get my fix at LATimes, but since I expect the left coast to disappear into the ocean any minute now…

  3. Seriously, DP? You want to give us one more reason not to bother with you? “Premium” and “Daily Progess article” sounds like an oxymoron.

  4. Length and weight virtually identical to my kids out of the oven. Your new project, by the way, is you. Observe the viewpoint changes in yourself alongside your offspring.

    Could you pdf the articles to your web server and link to them or is that breaking some sort of copyright rule?

  5. I just accessed their mobile site to read a story or two and was not asked for any login or payment info. Perhaps there’s the loophole?

  6. The best alternative is to read the Hook, which is free and covers local stories in depth, with fact based journalism – not subsidized by special interests that bias the reporting done by Charlottesville Tomorrow/Nature Conservancy money.

  7. This being soooo healthwise a conscious place, I know you DID NOT hand out cigars with the appropriate banded pink, blue or yellow (for twins, triplets etc.) Yes, reiterating the congratulations.

    Not meaning to be intrusive but any chance of an article about the arrival by the father here, as a special post for his audience following?

    Okay, so happy for you….. I missed that tiny hyperlink above. Oooohhh so cute.

  8. As to New York Times pay-per-view: I cut-and-paste an interesting NYT headline into the Google search engine and come back to the story from the Google search page, which in effect gives free access. Doesn’t draw down on the 20 article per month NYT limit. I have not yet tried incognito browsing or an URL block in Ad blocker for the NYT–good suggestions Waldo. Paying a micro-charge like a one cent per article fee (I prefer two cents, as in “throw in your two cents’ worth”) was an idea Bill Gates tried to fly decades ago, which at the time was shot down. Gates thought the Web could not long function if everything was free, because people don’t work for free or if they do, you get what you pay for. But the academic ethos, the ideal that information should be universally available prevailed over Gates’ jaded businessman’s view. Now it seems like the impracticality of giving away news for free has finally dawned on newspapers, and money is winning out over idealism. The Golden Age degenerates into the Silver Age, inevitably. What a surprise.

  9. I think all websites, news and otherwise, should charge people to post their pompous ass comments.

  10. I was using a rarely used older computer to read the NYTimes. HIt the end of my 20 article limit and got cut off since I don’t recall my password. I just deleted all cookies and kept right on reading with no problem.

  11. I really can’t imagine how the DP can make this fly. There are many, many sources of national news as well as many good sources of local news. And, if the DP sticks to this, more will soon spout.

    We canceled our subscription to the print version of the DP a couple of years ago. If it’s their hope that this will boost their print sales that’s not going to work at our house.

  12. Anything cookie-based is cheap to set up, easy to evade. But since when does the Prog have 20 readable articles?

  13. The DP would have to get a lot better to be worth paying for.
    Read the print edition at the library, thats always an alternative.

  14. The Daily Progress is not really worth reading in print, why on earth would they charge for it? I do like to read local news, but for that I look at The hook, the tv station websites, or here.

    Congratulations on the new addition!

  15. The problem is that I’m already paying to read the Daily Progress online. First I bought a computer, then I pay monthly for my internet access. The costs of my internet access have been exponential, what began as dial-up at $3.00/month fifteen years ago is now high speed at, well, more than that now. Mostly because the big guys quickly loaded up their informative websites with graphics and ads that dial-up could not handle: the expansion to cool stuff cost me.

    I also have more exposure to viruses that can kill my computer. Didn’t I recently read that over 40% of American computers are down due to computer viruses? Something like that.

    Google is a verb. I don’t wait five minutes to see if I remember it myself anymore; I just google it.

    A year ago, setting up my new office, I moved my reference books in and wondered if I shouldn’t recycle them instead. I rarely use them anymore.

    I’m not anti-technology, but I am anti-stupid technology. And I see a lot of that. Believe it or not, my job title was “Computer Systems Co-ordinator” in 1985. On early PCs I made my own tree-structured directories. Edlin was my friend. I had a computer with a floppy disk to load the program and another to record my documents. I still have utterly useless floppy disks, just as I still have reference books.

    I can still read the books.

    The problem is that I’ve already paid to read the Daily Progress online: by having a computer and by paying monthly to connect to the internet. I don’t want to pay again: it isn’t worth it — and that’s not just a slam at our local paper, it’s a slam at most of the internet.

    Someone published “Iris” for Android phones within a day of “Siri” being published for i-phones. No one can keep up with that, and just because it is being done doesn’t mean we should be expected to keep up with it and pay for it.

    Caveat Emptor, anyone? I’m increasingly inclined to expand my back-yard garden and ignore this silly expensive machine I’m typing on.

  16. I cut my teeth on a VIC-20, the VICmodem and Compuserve. They cost loads of dough. I have no idea why that’s relevant to this thread but it sure is fun to talk about 1981 in 2011.

  17. What gauge is the railroad and who pays?

    I buy a fairly inexpensive sneaker because I use them for casual walking; I have friends who invest an insane amount of money in running shoes, because they run multiple miles every day. They buy the tool they need and I buy the tool I need.

    Not so with computers & the internet. Because businesses have chosen to create advertisements and websites that demand high speed internet & an impressive graphics card, that’s what I have to buy in order to navigate the world-wide-web. I’ve been compelled to invest in their advertising; required to buy expensive running shoes even though I only want to do some gardening & take a walk around the block.

    Beta, VHS, Laser Discs, DVD, Blu-Ray. Really? These are opportunities for businesses to a) sell us new macines and b) sell us movies & TV shows we already own a second, third, fourth time.

    5-1/4″ floppy, 3-1/2″ floppy, DVD read only, DVD write, USB. Really? Again, businesses have an opportunity to sell me something new while I lose my investment in the previous new thing.

    When a telephone solicitor calls me, though it may be annoying, it doesn’t cost me anything. When I receive advertisements in the mail, it doesn’t cost me anything. I’m paying, in compulsary upgrades, for internet advertising; and I’m aware of it.

    Stepping back, this is all part of businesses outsourcing costs directly to their consumers. “Press one for….” is nothing but a company using my time to get a question answered rather than their time. “Go Paperless!” is nothing but shifting the responsbility for buying paper & ink from the company to the consumer. At last, we’re becoming aware of some of the more egregious attempts: B of A decided to not charge people for using their debit cards and Verizon decided to not charge their customers for paying their bills in certain ways.

    So memory lane is just context. How did we get here and are we willing to pay even more than we are now to read the ‘local’ paper? I’m not.

  18. Interesting take Barbara.

    I’ll agree on the ACD (Automatic Call Distributor), but the rest (minus BoA, an ‘evil’ enterprise if there ever was one) are just the cost of technological upgrades. Sure, you could still enjoy your movies on VHS displayed on a 320×200 fuzzy mammoth CRT taking up your entire family room, but flat screens and laser disks are really cool, consume less energy and won’t harm your eyes as much.

    Paperless bills have the company’s bottom line at heart, but it does save tremendous amounts of trees. As long as they don’t charge extra for it, it’s a win/win.

    I would agree with you more if you brought up the medical and pharma empires sucking us dry with their continuous and mostly useless cost increases for junk science.

    How about the auto industry responding with glee and encouraging power hungry Americans for 300+ horsepower and torque. What, for driving 65mph on the interstate?

    How about our guberment spending 30% of the budget on arsenal and military maintenance? Or billions and billions on an unconstitutional ‘security theater’ at our airports and now trains and bus terminals (VIPER)?

    Seems to me that Sony or Samsung or Microsoft or Media General’s profit center targets are the least of our worries.

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