Welcome to the 40th episode of the Mediatwits podcast, this time with Mark Glaser and the George Kelly as co-hosts. Kelly is online coordinator at the Contra Costa Times newspaper and is filling in for Rafat Ali. This week the big topic is pay walls, as both the Los Angeles Times and Gannett newspaper chains are planning to charge for access to their websites. Special guest Jimmy Orr is managing editor, online, for the L.A. Times, and joins us to talk about the new “membership program” the paper is rolling out on Monday. We also have special guest Ken Doctor, a newspaper analyst and author, who puts the pay walls into context with other pay plans that have already been in place. Can a regional paper like the L.A. Times succeed the same way that a more national paper like the N.Y. Times has done so far?
Also, there’s been turmoil at AOL’s TechCrunch tech blog, with editor Erick Schonfeld leaving and Eric Eldon becoming the new top dog. With so many defections from the site, and traffic off somewhere between 35% and 50% since Michael Arrington’s departure, can Eldon bring back the magic? Or will the new publications such as Uncrunched and PandoDaily get more juice as TechCrunch stumbles?
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Here are some highlighted topics from the show:
0:45: Co-host George Kelly sings with the Oakland Soft Rock Choir
2:20: The imperial presence of Whitney Houston
2:40: MediaShift launches Collaboration Central; what can we learn from musical collaboration?
3:50: Rundown of topics on the show
Pay walls at L.A. Times, Gannett
5:00: Digital First hasn’t pushed papers to do pay walls
5:50: Special guests Jimmy Orr and Ken Doctor
8:30: Orr: It’s the right time to do the pay wall
11:20: Doctor: Pay wall is easy, but can you get a bump in circulation revenues?
15:00: Orr: Unlike NY Times’ metered wall, stories found via social media count against free total per month
18:00: Doctor: Biggest challenge is coming up with mobile products that have unique interactive characteristics
19:30: What about Tackable partnering with newspapers? Is that the right approach?
22:20: Tech blog has lost staff and traffic lately
24:20: George: The only way for TechCrunch to come back is with strong personalities
26:00: Mark: Hard for a website to make a comeback after being hot and hitting a rough patch
Paywalls catching on with more newspapers at Marketwatch
Newspapers: Paywalls Aren’t the Answer at the Investor Place
2011 a year of record growth for latimes.com at LA Times’ Readers’ Representative Journal
Gannett Pushes Its Pay Wall Plan to Investors at Media Decoder
As Staff Flees, TechCrunch’s Traffic Plummets at PaidContent
Don’t forget to vote in our weekly poll, this time about what you might pay for access to your local paper’s website:
Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit. and Circle him on Google+