McClatchy to begin ‘robust test’ of pay model

McClatchy vice president of news Anders Gyllenhaal tells employees that “after more than a year of experiments and analysis on pay models, McClatchy newspapers will begin a robust test of a pay plan that looks like the right balance for our websites.” He writes:

We’ve learned that many light online users are unlikely to become subscribers — but that our loyal print and online customers are willing to sign up in exchange for a multi-media subscription that would include the print edition, web, smart phones and the e-edition. Above all, we found that the impact of placing a clear value on our content is among the most important messages we can send as part of this transition.

The full memo is after the jump:

McClatchy pay model starts going into place:
posted by Anders Gyllenhaal

After more than a year of experiments and analysis on pay models, McClatchy newspapers will begin a robust test of a pay plan that looks like the right balance for our websites. The approach will offer readers a new print-digital subscription that will include access to multimedia editions for a relatively small increase of home delivery rates. We’ll also offer online-only users a digital subscription that will be prompted after a set number of page views. We’ve arrived at this combination after a lot of research, involving McClatchy papers and others, which shows that a thoughtfully crafted, opt-out digital subscription is a good fit with our overall readership and circulation strategy. In the coming months, we’ll begin a final round of testing with a handful of McClatchy papers (first up will be Sacramento, Fort Worth, Modesto, Biloxi and Columbus). The experiences of these papers will determine how and under what schedule to extend to all papers.

Our experiments with pay approaches, starting with Modesto more than a year ago and moving to several other McClatchy papers, have taught us a number of things. The pay model is a complex move that has to be part of wider plan for how we distribute and value our content. We’ve learned that many light online users are unlikely to become subscribers — but that our loyal print and online customers are willing to sign up in exchange for a multi-media subscription that would include the print edition, web, smart phones and the e-edition. Above all, we found that the impact of placing a clear value on our content is among the most important messages we can send as part of this transition. As you know, we’re not alone in moving in this direction. It helps that much of the industry is embracing versions of this approach such that it’s establishing new expectations for the cost of online content.

McClatchy will work with Press+, the company developed by journalist Steve Brill that is handling pay model preparations for more than 300 newspapers. Almost as important as the specifics of the subscription is the way it is explained and presented to readers and users. (This is one of the reasons this plan will not be made public until individual papers are approaching the move, so please consider this confidential.) The extensive experience that Press + has makes the roll out one of its strengths. There are details yet to be finalized, including what the rate increase should be, which could vary by the community; what the number of free page views should be, which could also vary by markets. Those are the questions we’ll be working on and talking about in this next stage of the testing, which will begin in about 60 days at the first five papers. We’ll keep everyone posted as this moves ahead.

This is going to be a key move as part of our broader strategy. Please take a moment to post questions, observations, any issues you see from your perspective, whether as a photographer, producer, editor, reporter, copy editor. We’ll share the posts with the folks working on this project.

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