Dear Dallas Morning News: I Love the Pay Wall. No, Really. Now May I Please Come In?

Categories: Get Off My Lawn

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I'm all for pay walls. Pay walls r me. When newspapers like The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times put up pay walls, charging readers for access to news content, I figure they're trying to get ink-stained schlubs like me paid.

I know there are people out there who think we reporters should labor in the vineyards of truth for truth's sake and that charging for it makes us whores. But giving my work-product away for free just makes me feel like a dumb slut.

So charge! Charge away! I couldn't agree more.

The only thing, if you're going to have a pay wall, there needs to be a way to get through the pay wall. I tried for two weeks to figure out the secret code at The Dallas Morning News. I felt like a character in Lord of the Rings.

I'm a home subscriber. I'm supposed to be a member of the club already. But every time I tried to get in, the software came up with a new excuse for bouncing me out, like, "That email address is already in use."

Yeah. By me. Oh well. Never argue with software. Better to argue with cats. Finally I decided I needed to approach this thing the way I would if I were an ex-pat living in Italy needing to solve a problem with the Poste Italiane.

First, pack a lunch. Take a comfortable pillow. Plan on at least a full day.

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Since Schutze can't handle a website login, we're thinking of getting a new phone to simplify his life.
So I set aside an afternoon and called their customer service number. A very nice man answered right away, no wait, and he understood right away what my problem was. He looked me up. I think I heard some muttering about what a lot of passwords I had under my name, but I ignored all remarks except direct questions, so as not to derail our pursuit of the ultimate goal.

I would say it was not 15 minutes before I was fixed up with a nice user name and password. For several days after that, I was able to zip right in there to the News' pages, see what I could see and zip back out.

Just to be polite, I always logged out instead of just x'ing the session. It's the way I was raised. My mother said, "Always log out, Jimmy."

So today I try to go back in. I hit the sign-in page just as I intend. I sign in. Zip-zip. Then it gives me a chance to join up, so I can sign in. But I'm already signed in, am I not? Not so much. I seem to be signed in ... but also out.

So I go back out. Come back in. Here I am. In. But then the software gives me a chance to get in. No, wait, don't tell me how to come in, you blockhead son of a bitch software. I'm already in.

Am I not? Not. Out.

Oh, man. I feel like I'm trying to buy a shirt from Abbott and Costello.

Do you want in?
Of course I want in.
You can't come in. You're already in.
No, out.
What do you want out for?

This is a very damned counterintuitive method of marketing. You know, you look at those old-fashioned things at the mall, what are they called? Stores. They spend all kind of money and time trying to get people to come in. Not out. In.

But maybe this is the next step. First, no wall. Then, pay wall. Next, just wall, as in mausoleum.

I'm all turned around.

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36 comments
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JimS
JimS

I'm sure nobody is paying attention to this post any more, but, for the record, I need to offer a little more precision on my problem, which I am still having. I usually want to go into the News site in pursuit of a specific story, since I have already read the paper version in full every morning. So. I go in through the pay-wall as a subscriber. I search for my story. The page offers me the headline and a capsule version, but it says I must subscribe to see the full version. But I do subscribe. In fact, I'm in there as a subscriber. The welcome box in the upper right-hand corner shows me as signed in. So I can't get any inner. Going out and coming back in does not help. Same problem. I don't want to do too much schutzenfreude about this, because we all live in glass houses where this stuff is concerned, and I am sure our own web page has its vexations and foibles. Plus, they have a much more complex challenge because their paper is bigger. But DAMN! This is the shop window, the basic pitch, the portal, the passage on which every damn thing depends. I feel like I'm in this crowd of people out in front of Best Buy banging on the door, and the sales people are all in there giving us big helpless shrugs.

Phelps
Phelps

So what you are saying, Jim, is that it's all emotional. You know that there's more money in the ads than the subscription fees -- that's why the Observer is free. Honestly, I can't figure out why Belo is cutting off its nose to spite its face. (I can figure out why the NYT is doing it -- it's a purely political animal at this point, and the only people reading it online are its political opponents so they can mock and fisk it.)

Just the facts, ma'am
Just the facts, ma'am

Check out the user reviews on i-phone for the Dallas News app. Everyone said it sucked. Really. Everyone. And that was the free app.

LaceyB
LaceyB

Chris Vognar doesn't really love the paywall either. I didn't get to talk to him much further than that, as he had disciples at Sunday's panel. I'm trying to link my site of occasional movie reviewing (baddatesindallas.com) to actual local press people (Yo! Dallas!) other than Wilonsky. But, I can't afford this paywall thing. Which makes that difficult.Rejection blows. Kinda the way my mini-beagle rejects breathmints and the occasional Tums (as needed). And, apparently, your password issue, Schutze.

J Michael Daniel Jr
J Michael Daniel Jr

I have endured every issue I have read here today. I have one little diddy....The DMN search engine is downright awful. I was doing follow up on a Dallas based episode of "The first 48" and wanted to know if the crimes that were covered were ever solved. I opened DMN's page and did about 10 relevant searches regarding criminals and victims names etc,etc. Every search came up with no related content. I then went to google and the first search showed 8 related articles....all from DMN's site. **FACEPALM**

Joanne R
Joanne R

Jim, I too was out in the cold for about 10days. I finally got thru to their tech guy last Saturday. Seems we knew each other, having worked at a prior job together. He told me he wasn't supposed to tell people this but:.....

He said just sit tight for 2-3 days ort so and don't change your computer or try to fix things at your end because BELO is well aware it is there problem and that they are "working on it". He said he expected it would have to be fixed very soon.

I can't imagine why they think it is a good thing to have no one using their site for now about 2-1/2 weeks. Do their advertisers know this is happening? I'd be pissed if I had paid to advertise.

Jimmy Miller
Jimmy Miller

Jim, people vote with their feet for a reason. People feel like they can get better content elsewhere with or without paying for it.

Sanders Kaufman
Sanders Kaufman

Well, the IT staff at Belo *are* Tea Party Republicans.So it's no surprise that mainstream Americans are having mysterious login problems.They're just a bunch of vandals.

kappy
kappy

The exact same thing has been happening to me. Half the time the site doesn't even recognize my e-mail address.

Dan Brantley
Dan Brantley

The Morning News site has irritated me for a long time; pop-over java ads that cover what you want to read (and the "close" link is almost the same color as the background,) pop-under windows that I find after closing everything, every other day a request for more personal information... after the pay wall went up I switched to the Star-Telegram site. Much more local news, fewer ads, no unending request to sign up or sign over more information. Try it...http://www.star-telegram.com/

Daniel
Daniel

My mother always said the same thing. Well, she said, "Christ, you're a slob, Danny -- you look like a raggedy buffoon and the way you smart off it's only a matter of time before some hoodlum stabs you." This was her inimitable way of saying she adored me and I should always log out.

Admonkey
Admonkey

I've had an email in to the DMN's subscriber services "help desk" for two weeks now. No response. Their customer service sucks so hard, you might say it Belos.

Harvey
Harvey

The agony. I've been fighting the DMN for the past week. It was bad enough when the papers (first the Wednesday and then two Sundays) but apparently they hadn't even completed my order correctly. Now I'm wondering where's my damned $35 gift card for joining the special club of being able to be screwed and yell insanely at the DAMNED COMPUTER!! DAMN!!! ...sorry. They changed my password, told me what it is, but now I can't even access subscriber services TO USE THE DAMNED THING!! ....sorry. Next stop: cancellation.

madannie
madannie

Same story for me. Took 3 weeks on hold at various times to get the problem fixed. only problem now is the e-edition sucks.

Harvey
Harvey

....excuse me for my rant. I meant to say the papers DIDN'T SHOW UP!!! , ...but apparently they hadn't even completed my order.....blah blah. Not to mention that when I first signed up, it didn't sign me up. I figured they just didn't want me.

Rooster
Rooster

I subscribe to the DMN. I'm one of those 'pry my newspaper from my cold dead hands" kind of guys, but do occasionally look at the online version. I'm of the opinion the DMN provides me a service I use and enjoy, and they should be compensated for that service so I can continue to use and enjoy it.

That being said, I have never had trouble logging onto their website, but then again, I spend 90% of my DMN love with the print version.

Rigby
Rigby

You are in a small minority. I use the online site everyday and my experience is exactly as the others here describe. The problem I have with the pay wall is that if I am going to pay for the content, at least edit it, use proper grammar and do a COMPLETE story.

JimS
JimS

I'm looking at this picture they put up here of the gray-haired doofus holding up a cell phone. Are they talking about ME? Is that about ME? Damn. They're trying to blame this shit on ME? Damn. What if a crippled person complained about not being able to get in throgh the pay wall? Would they put up a picture making fun of THEM? NO. They get their own damned parking spots, but my demographic is just free game I guess. One day we'll all be dead, and there will be no one left who knows how to iron a shirt. I'd like to see the smile on their faces then. Wrinkled shirt bastards.

Jay Hawk
Jay Hawk

I don't think this is a gray-haired issue. I tried for 15 minutes to link my accounts this morning, to no avail. Then created a new account and tried to link it, no dice.

G_David
G_David

Like you, I don't begrudge the DMN the opportunity to remain a going concern, unlike many other newspapers across the country. Last I checked, Seattle didn't even have a daily paper anymore. Ad revenue is down a shocking amount over what it was 10 or 15 years ago. Anybody checked the size of the Sunday classifieds lately? I remember when that section weighed about 3 lbs. by itself - now it's about the size of the print edition of The Observer. Then again, why would anybody pay to put an ad in the newspaper when there are all manner of free websites that will do the same thing? Add that to the fact that circulation is down so much, because quite frankly, nobody in this country really has the attention span to read a newspaper these days.

And as somebody that subscribed to the paper and read it cover to cover every day for about 15 years (this was before they were futilely trying to subsidize the entire operation with their subscription rates), it does pain me to see it come to this. Every city, regardless of size should have a paper of record, in my opinion. Which is why the ineptitude of whoever is in charge of the online version of the DMN is so stupefying. Even when registration was free, it was a pain in the ass, and it sounds like the paywall has only made it worse. If they can't get it together, they deserve whatever happens.

Montemalone
Montemalone

Apparently, they think they're doing a damn fine job over at Belo. Check out the bonuses they gave themselves.

Nachoman
Nachoman

Bring back the Dallas Times Herald damnit!

John_McKee
John_McKee

Fun fact: If if you can get Briefing for free, you get free online access to the DMN, a real money saver for people that happen to be affluent enough to live in the Briefing delivery area.

Nunya
Nunya

Believe it or not, they deliver to the Cedar's. Hardly an affluent area. Curious though, how does that work? Is there some login info in the paper?

Ed D.
Ed D.

No, you just have to put in your address and last name. Or at least that's how it worked (eventually) for me.

Nunya
Nunya

Givin it a try, thanks!

txbird58
txbird58

Pfft. Signing in never worked for me even before the paywall.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

I share your pain, Jim... as well as complete bafflement at the behavior of the folks running the DMN. After much grumbling, I thought.... errrr.... okay, maybe I'll subscribe. The first time, I attempted, I remember the offerings all having a cryptic "cm" in the midst of the description. This spooked me, so I thought I would come back later.

Okay, I came back later, and all the offerings were more clearly labeled, but they all required me to take a paper version of the DMN at least once per week, which I didn't want. So, I left again. Then, over here on Unfair Park, someone mentioned that there was, in fact, a way to get the DMN online without taking the paper version, so I went back.

This time, after scanning the screen carefully, I noticed in small print something that read ">>View all subscription offers" underneath all the prominently displayed offerings...so I clicked on it to see what would happen.

This time, I learned that the Ipad edition, the Iphone edition and the online access to the DMN are all separate product offerings---- what the heck?!?!???

After staring at this matrix for a bit, I noticed that there was something called the "Digital Bundle," which would give me access to all three online offerings for a 70% premium. Arggh!!! This made my angry. But wait, I then noticed that I also get access to something called the "eEdition." Unfortunately, I could find no description of this mysterious product, or how it is different from the Iphone, Ipad and generic internet editions. Grumble grumble.

Then, I noticed that the "Digital Bundle" is more expensive than the exact same products plus the Sunday DMN. Wait.... what????? Evidently, they'll pay me $0.30 per week to take the paper edition of the Sunday DMN in addition to the Digital Bundle. Why???? I don't want the paper edition!!! Why punish me for taking less, rather than more??

My anger sufficiently triggered yet again, I once more left the DMN's website without making a purchase.

Why do these a-holes have to make everything so complicated?

TimCov
TimCov

"Then, I noticed that the "Digital Bundle" is more expensive than the exact same products plus the Sunday DMN. Wait.... what?????"

I can easily explain that one. Think about how many ads make up a Sunday paper. The revenue on the Sunday edition more than makes up the difference.

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

I still remember that when I moved, I couldn't put in a change of address over the internet, but I could cancel my subscription. I then resubscribed after I moved, but everytime I call them I have to tell them that the old address is not the correct address. It has been three years....

Heywood U Buzzoff
Heywood U Buzzoff

Well Jimmy, the DMN usually just re-circulates stories from the wife feeds. Their local content is usually wrong, so you must be forgoing the DMN-only stuff So are you really missing Carl P. Leubsdorf that much?!?!?

me
me

dysfunctional doesn't even begin to describe their web efforts

phe_75034
phe_75034

For whatever reason (and I can think of a few), Belo has ALWAYS seemed mystified by the workings of the Internet. I can't think of another company which has botched more electronic initiatives as those clowns.

From the CueCat (OK, Wired magazine, no slouch at this online thing, misplayed that one too) to terrible iPhone apps to more pop-up ads per page than most porn sites to non-functional paywalls to the least appealing website design in the free world to...I could go on for a while, but I won't. Through all of this, Belo has seemed so tone-deaf to the Internet that I really wonder if anyone under the age of 70 actually works in the place.

Since the DMN paywall went up, I have found myself boycotting all Belo outlets. Not by any momentous decision nor to make any point. Just because the DMN and WFAA online products suck and they aren't worth the trouble.

Jim, I lament your situation. But I'm not surprised by it.

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