This Week’s Headlines: Fired KCS Reporter Fights Back, HuffPo Removes Story with Fabricated Quotes

As we celebrate American Independence Day, headlines in the media and publishing world were dominated by stories of questionable ethics. Read on for links ot the stories that caught our eye this week:

Building the Great Newspaper Paywall

newspaper paywall

The beleaguered newspaper industry has finally settled on a digital revenue strategy—the metered paywall—and now everyone’s pitching in to get it built. Paywalls have their critics, their boostersmore critics and then the critics-who-also-want-to-be-boosters. Time will tell who was right but we were curious to know how this Great Paywall is getting built—which newspapers are participating and why?

So we took one list—a list of paywalls scrupulously compiled by newsandtech.com—and another list—daily newspapers with circulation and ownership data from the Audit Bureau of Circulations—and spliced them together. The result: a pretty comprehensive (see caveats at bottom) look at what types of newspapers are adopting paywalls. Long story short, big newspapers are building paywalls in much greater proportion than smaller newspapers and that’s true not just for the very largest dailies but also for the many hundreds of newspapers further down the circulation ladder. Why are we comparing print circulation to online subscription models? Because print is where the revenue currently is and there’s a good argument to be made that the majority of these paywalls are really designed to hold on to those loyal subscribers after years of cannibalizing print revenue by giving the same content away for free online.

Paywall Adoption Skews By Newspaper Size

Looking at the number of publications is one thing but adding in circulation figures gives us a much better idea of how many actual readers are affected by the shift toward paywalls. While just 239 of the nation’s 1,532 dailies have (or have announced) paywalls, they represent around a third of all daily readers. That’s because of the 20 largest newspapers by circulation, nine are or will be behind paywalls, representing 51% of that readership.

But go down the circulation rankings and paywalls are far less prevalent, even including industry leader Gannett’s planned implementation for later this year. Under 100,000 circulation only 21% of readers are affected, under 50,000 the share is 19% and under 25,000 the figure is just 16%. You might be inclined to shrug off the small newspapers in that last group but they are the bulk of the industry: two out of three daily newspapers have circulations under 25,000 and while they account for only one out of four readers, they’re the primary news sources of countless small cities, towns and rural areas in the U.S.

Newspaper Paywalls by Circulation Size

The higher adoption rates by larger newspapers (see chart) could be seen as proof that paywalls are largely defensive moves intended to reverse the online cannibalization of loyal print readers. Having sunk resources into building robust online businesses, big papers now can’t afford to abandon their online ad revenue but can’t rely on it, either. Looked at from the opposite direction, small newspapers are more dominant in their advertising and audience markets and have put less into their web sites but also have fewer resources to devote to building paywalls—not an inexpensive enterprise, at least when The New York Times is concerned.

Expect More Chains To Build Paywalls

The data also make clear that nearly all the biggest newspaper chains are on board and nearly all are adopting a toe-in-the-water approach in case they need to backtrack or adjust course. Gannett, of course, announced that all of its newspapers, except for its flagship USA Today, would adopt some form of paid model by the end of 2012. Besides Gannett, the largest newspaper chains vary widely in their paywall adoption but none has gone all in (see chart below). With the impending decision by the Chicago Tribune to charge, Tribune Co. will have put 84% of its print circulation on a paywall model. At the other end of the spectrum MediaNews has only 12% behind a wall and Community Newspaper Holdings has just one newspaper out of 85 with a paywall.

Newspaper Paywalls by Ownership

Can the paywall data make any predictions? It looks like the trickle is turning into a torrent as chains like Gannett decide the experimental phase is over. McClatchy said recently it’s confident enough to expand paywalls from the Modesto Bee to more titles and Nieman’s Ken Doctor thinks that 20% of U.S. daily newspapers will have paywalls by the end of 2012 (not far from the current 16%). As for the product that powers all this—that would be the journalism—Poynter’s Rick Edmonds gave evidence earlier this year that paywalls may be a harbinger of retrenched, reinvigorated newsrooms. If that’s the case, this is a list of where to look first for an end to the long retreat from hiring, covering and publishing.

Download the data we used for this post here: Ebyline-Newspapers and Paywalls

Caveats

Counting paywalls, newspapers and circulation isn’t an exact science, as Nieman’s Adrienne LaFrance pointed out recently. Newsandtech.com’s paywalls list seems pretty comprehensive but is clearly missing a few publications and is structured in a way that probably resulted in our making errors when crunching the data. We updated that list with the most recent paywalls announcements but probably missed a few nonetheless. Our data do not include the many large ownership shifts of recent weeks in the industry (Buffett, Halifax, etc.), either. Audit Bureau data on circulation and ownership are also sometimes fuzzy, duplicative or mis-categorized but we’ve done our best there, too.

(Correction: we amended the caveats to note that newsandtech.com’s paywalls list wasn’t error-filled as much as it was difficult to turn into a workable spreadsheet, which likely resulted in translation errors—PB)

This Week’s Headlines: Supreme Court Rules on Health Care, Ann Curry Leaves Today Show

The Twittersphere was abuzz yesterday with news of Ann Curry’s departure from the Today show and the Supreme Court’s health care ruling. Here’s a look at these and other stories from the past week:

  • ‘Today’ co-host Ann Curry bids farewell: As Ann Curry bid a tearful farewell to Today show viewers yesterday morning, discussion over the circumstances surrounding her departure made her name a Twitter trending topic. Curry is no longer a Today show co-host but will continue working for the network as as Today show anchor-at-large and NBC News national/international correspondent.
  • CNN, Fox News err in covering Supreme Court health care ruling: Following the announcement that the Supreme Court had upheld the Affordable Care Act, CNN and Fox incorrectly reported that the act had been struck down. Meanwhile, an AP editor instructed journalists to “stop taunting on social networks.”
  • New York Times kicks off “NYT Everywhere,” first stop: Flipboard: As part of its new “NYT Everywhere” initiative, the New York Times made its content available via social magazine Flipboard starting on Thursday. Subscribers can authenticate their subscription through Flipboard and receive access according to their subscription package. As with other NYT apps, non-subscribers will have access to the paper’s Top News section.
  • Writer and Filmmaker With a Genius for Humor: Beloved and prolific journalist/author/essayist Nora Ephron died on Tuesday night at the age of 71. Fans recounted her romantic comedies including When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and Julie & Julia as well as her books like I Feel Bad About My Neck, Ephron’s best-selling collection of essays.
  • China blocks Bloomberg website after report on wealth of next president’s extended family: Today, after Bloomberg published a report on the assets of family of the heir apparent to China’s presidency, the country’s government block access to the Bloomberg website.

This Week’s Headlines: Knight News Challenge Awards, Post Drops iPad Paywall

Hope all our readers on the East Coast are surviving this week’s heat wave! Here’s a look at the media and publishing headlines that caught our eye this week:

This Week’s Headlines: Politico Expanding, Time Offering iPad Subscriptions

First off, we couldn’t resist including a link to Poynter’s post about the journalist wage maps we published yesterday. (In case you haven’t noticed, we’re huge fans of the Poynter website so that was a nice coup for us.) Elsewhere in cyberspace: reporters, bloggers, and content writers were buzzing about a variety of other topics, including a scandal at the WSJ and news about Time Inc. subscriptions on the iPad. Here’s a look at this week’s top headlines in media and publishing:

  • Gina Chon resigns from Wall Street Journal after admitting affair with U.S. official: A Wall Street Journal reporter covering Iraq resigned from the paper this week after her relationship with an American official (President Obama’s nominee to be ambassador to Iraq) came to light. The Washington Post reports that the reporter did not divulge the relationship to the paper and violated company policy by sharing unpublished articles with him.
  • Politico to Expand Its Subscription Service: As print publications like The Times-Picayune reduce staff and page counts, Politico is actually expanding coverage of the economy and the military. In fact, the news outlet plans to hire 20 more writers and editors to beef up its subscription service Politico Pro.
  • Why your news organization’s social media policy may be illegal: A multimedia journalist at the Colorado Springs Gazette who was placed on “administrative leave” this week following a dispute over posting on Facebook illustrates the potential legal pitfalls of publications dictating employees’ social media use.
  • Apple, Time Inc. settle magazine subscription dispute: Time Inc. has reached an agreement with Apple that will enable readers to buy iPad subscriptions for 20 of Times’ magazine titles. Previously the company had been the last major holdout to iPad subscription plans, offering only single-issue versions of its magazines through the App Store.
  • iWitness filters Twitter and Flickr content by time and location: We saw several tweets this week about iWitness, a new web app that displays updates from Twitter and Flickr by time and location. Currently the app only runs on certain browsers (Chrome and Safari but not Firefox) but appears to have potential for reports looking for eyewitness accounts of events.

What’s on your radar this week? Hope all our readers have a great weekend!

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