Thursday, October 8, 2009

Getting ready to drop the firewall?

In my post on declining language standards at ChronBlog there was a comment by bob which deserves wider consideration based on recent events....
Meanwhile, can you imagine how much dough Hearst will be rolling in once it takes the "best" of this web content and puts it behind a paywall?
The Hearst pay-wall has been talked about for some time now. The last remaining questions seem to be where to drop it down on people clamoring for less information presented with an ideological slant?

Recent activity suggests that the decision has been made. (or, more accurately, is in the process of being made)

Consider this: Recently ChronBlog has been on a tear organizing their material into clusters. First we had Delish which is the Chron's "new" food page, paired up with but minus Alison Cook's food/restaurant blog.

Strangely, that blog and Beer, TX (Ronnie Crocker's entertaining brew blog) are lumped together with features on why women have sex (complete with suggestive picture, you know, it's news) behind the newly re-designed "entertainment" section. As a matter of fact, it seems that most of the time, effort and money are being directed toward 'features' based reporting now, as the news & business sections are withering on the vine with curiously few upgrades or enhancements.

All of this leads to the following guess. It should be noted that this is only a guess, as I have no inside information from 801 Texas Ave. to back this up.*

The paywall is going to drop at the gateway to features, sports and entertainment. Items classified as "news" are going to remain free to the public. Not free will be the two sorry Metro columns and the rantings of the Chron's Caucasian Think-Tank. Imagine the dollars that those shallow pools of municipal thought are going to bring in. I would imagine that the revenue potential is somewhere in the hundreds (slightly lower for the food and entertainment sections.)

The reason I think this is because newspapermen have always considered the news side of the job to be a part of the public trust. Yes, it's true that all of the old-school newspapermen are now either dead or retired, but old habits die hard. There's still a false air of elegance that newspapers bequeath upon themselves, almost as if they are the last bridge to an uncivilized society.

Nevermind that, to my thinking, they have this all backwards. It's their news content that provides newspapers with whatever value they have left. The more they cut the news, the less valuable they become. Now I've got the feeling that they are contemplating walling off the majority of their content, the part that has the least value to the community.

Either way I don't think ChronBlog is going to stay a free site for long. Will this help them? That I highly doubt. They seem to be intent on moving away from what it is they do well, and what has the most value at an alarming pace.

What they fail to understand is that there are websites, amateur & professional blogs and other resources that do "Features" reporting better, often for free. What no-one does as well as a strong newspaper is report the news of the day.

At least, that was how it used to be.

If any employee of 801 Texas wants to fill us in anonymously I'll approve that comment of course.


  1. There's no way editorials will go pay. Deep down, the editorial board knows what value the public will set for their pablum.

  2. Just in case anyone out there is worried at the potential Houston news/information vacuum sucking its way onto the scene once the chron drops the curtain on a portion of its offerings, here's a post I did back in June that provides a fairly complete list of web links that will give the worried former chron reader pretty much everything they used to get for free from Hearst, plus more.

    As a bonus, there are also instructions for compiling these links into your browser's home page.


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