The Morning News is "Very Satisfied" with Year One of the Paywall. How 'Bout You?

Categories: Media

scalingthewall.jpg
Via the Boston Public Library
Morning News readers are scaling the paywall, but are they doing it fast enough?
Yesterday was First-Quarter Earnings Day for Dallas Morning News parent A.H. Belo, or as we call it in the newspaper business, So How Many of Us Are Getting Whacked on Christmas Day? Day.

The news was pretty predictable: Total first-quarter revenue was $105 million, down 7 percent over last year. Advertising revenue, both print and digital, was down 12 percent. Even digital-ad revenue was down 11 percent, to $7.8 million.

"All in all," CEO Robert Decherd told investors in yesterday's conference call, "the first quarter was a good one."

What's a bad one? We didn't have the heart to ask.

But of course: For the Morning News and its beleaguered parent, ad revenue is only part of the game, and a shrinking one at that. It's all about "creating proprietary local content and reducing our dependince on ad revenues," Decherd told investors. Translation: #PAYWALLMOFOS.

After wading through the bloody streams of traditional revenue, Decherd quickly turned yesterday's call over to News publisher Jim Moroney, who used the occasion to recap the first year of the paper's "subscriber content" experiment, better known as the "paywall," which was erected last March.

"We simply couldn't afford to give away for free what our best customers were paying $400 a year to have," Moroney said.

About 50,000 people purchased digital-only subscriptions in the paywall's first year, Moroney said, at either $9.85 for one-device access or $16.95 for all-access. That's about $8 million in revenue, if you figure half the subscribers bought one package and half the other. (See bone-headed correction below.)

But that paywall, of course, caused a drop in traffic to the paper's web site: from 39 million pageviews a month in the year ending March 31, 2011, to 30 million in the paywall's first year. (The Observer, for comparison's sake, did 4.3 million pageviews in March.)

That drop in clicks obviously cost the paper some ad revenue. But Moroney said the number of lost ad impressions -- that's the number of times an individual ad loads on the site -- was about equal to the number "remnant" impressions the paper sells, which are ads sold in bulk (and deeply discounted) when the site doesn't have enough full-priced advertising to support its traffic.

"We've accomplished a lot," Moroney said, summing up the first year. "We have a lot more to do."

He outlined several objectives from 2012, including a complete overhaul of dallasnews.com; a new and improved guidelive.com; a new tablet product; neighborhood-focused web sites to accompany community papers; and the development of niche mobile apps and even e-books, all of which damn well better be narrated by their new Digital Managing Editor/Omniblogger.

The News is also trying to make it easier for people to align their print subscriptions with their digital ones, Moroney said, and it will spend $4 million on marketing the digital subscriptions this year.

And -- you'll just love this part -- after raising its seven-day, new-subscriber home delivery rate to $37 a month in October, the News is already conducting another "price elasticity" study, to measure just how elastic that wallet of yours is. We're guessing not very.

An earlier version of this story completely blew the math on digital subscriptions. I'm not sure what's worse: That I blew the math or that I didn't realize immediately how paltry my original figure was. Although given the state of things, nothing would surprise me. Anyway, sorry for any confusion. I hope no journalists jumped off the Calatrava as a result of this error.

Here's Moroney's presentation:

The Morning New' Subscriber Content Strategy


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39 comments
Uptheironsdallas
Uptheironsdallas

I have a novel idea for you, Joe: Stop worrying, writing, and caring about what the DMN does and concentrate on making this once great alternative news outlet great again. Quite frankly, it's become a joke of an echo chamber full of fluff, soft and lazy thinking, and at times scatological for the sake of being scatological/because "we" can get away with it.  When a Mencken wannabe, half-wit like Schutze is your most reasonable voice, you're in trouble.

Montemalone
Montemalone

So, revenue's down 7%.

I guess that means Decherd and Mong's bonuses go up 25%?

CheeryBitch
CheeryBitch

Any company that employs people who yell at and berate customers for passing on their 'great deal' of a subscription offer in the middle of Walgreen's or Kroger won't see a penny of my business or click of my mouse.

cp
cp

A lot of what they claim is "proprietary content" isn't. So there's really no point in reading when you can find it somewhere else. 

read bits and pieces
read bits and pieces

I'll read the DISD blog, but little else. I can get a better selection of comics elsewhere. Occasionally there is a story that continues behind the paywall, but I can't afford a full electronic subscription for just a few stories a year.

richard schumacher
richard schumacher

Rumor has it that Hizzoner Da Mare is going to shitcan the Trinity floodplain tollroad tomorrow.  If true will the shock cause the DMN to straighten up and fly right?  Or will it only flog the next harebrained real estate scheme even more frantically? 

Ed D.
Ed D.

The pay wall means I spend a few extra seconds putting the headline into Google and seeing the entire article without incident. All they've accomplished is making it less convenient for me to click from one article to the next so I spend far less time reading the non-Wilonsky portions of dallasnews.com than before.

Guest
Guest

The paywall is permeable.  Google the title of the article you would like to read and click through.  

Phelps
Phelps

Paywall... you mean the Google-referral-wall?

watchingsouthdetroit
watchingsouthdetroit

One day the DMN will realize that they are continually shooting themselves in the foot.  I was a former subscriber to the paper.  When I first subscribed years ago, they promised morning delivery by 6AM.  It worked for many years.  Then when I wasn't getting the paper in time for a period of weeks to bring it to work, I called and spoke to a "supervisor".  I was lied to and told that this 6AM policy never existed - when  knew it did.  I cut back to a weekend only (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) after their delivery became unreliable.  Then the DMN decided that they would no longer offer weekend only subscriptions so I stopped subscribing.  To sum it up, lousty delivery, lied to, then offered a full week or leave it option to subscribe.  I decided to leave it.  The people to manage the paper seem to have no clue on why their circulation is dropping - there are reasons other than the internet - like their own poor performance, lying, and bad decision making.

topher
topher

i'm sorry, "the Morning..." what again?

MushMouth1
MushMouth1

I tried to get a digital subscription when you-know-who left Unfair Park but got caught up in a circular firing squad where they were convinced that I had a daily home delivery account already even though I've never subscribed and have owned my house since it was build in the late 80's. When I tried to get access using that "subscription information" (for free I might add) they insisted that I needed a subscription. When I tried to get a subscription it said I already had one... and on and on and on.

Screw it.

Daily Reader
Daily Reader

Spend $4 million to try and improve on the $675,000 figure for digital????  I still buy the Sunday paper and the daily every now and then but finding good reporting has been quite a task in those papers.

Coblyjudge
Coblyjudge

Those online subscription numbers you quoted are almost certainly monthly, not yearly as you seem to be saying. It looks like they did about 8million dollars in online paywall revenue...or rather are on track to.

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

If the DMN had something I would read daily/weekly, like the NY Times, I would consider paying for an online sub. but seeing the only decent things there are Jackie Floyd and WIlonsky, i'll take a pass ;) Until Dechard realizes he cant use his paper as a mouthpiece for his close personal friends,  expect the daily reads to fall..

Tim Covington
Tim Covington

I am very satisfied too. I haven't look at their web site or paper in over a year.

watchingsouthdetroit
watchingsouthdetroit

Good point - I read The Observer much less since you dumped the Richie Whitt and the Sports.  Instead I get fluff like "best hamburgers" and "egg dishes".  Geez that is weak.

Joe Tone
Joe Tone

I'll take all this criticism on the chin, no dodging, save for two parts: 1. If you think Schutze is anything less than a full-wit, you're not reading; and 2., "worrying, writing, and caring about what the" the daily does is, unarguably, a crucial part of what a great alternative news outlet does -- yes, even today. DMN's not as powerful as it once was, but it's still damn powerful and needs to be covered.

Joe Tone
Joe Tone

They didn't expressly lay out the equation in the call, but this looks about right.

yeahIsaidthat
yeahIsaidthat

 Ding, Ding, Ding! The right answer! We have a winner here!

cp
cp

Do you honestly think Rawlings will "shitcan" the tollroad with the DCC standing by his side? Hahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

billmarvel
billmarvel

Maybe I'm just dense. Everybody seems to want the DMN to do better reporting, but nobody wants to pay for it. Everybody would rather collect it for free on Google. Isn't that kind of like digging around in the dumpster behind a restaurant for a free meal?

Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

I had a home subscription. Somehow, despite my repeated complaints, they were only able to deliver my bill, but never an actual newspaper. I canceled my subscription (which they continued to bill be for until they finally just gave up) and swore off their rag forever.

I haven't missed it much. Among Google, the Observer, the FC Dallas web site and gocomics.com, I'm good.

Joe Tone
Joe Tone

See above. I did this math nine times and still blew it entirely. That number's closer to $8 million, as @6f9e391cbd5346490143816422f00e01:disqus points out.  I've corrected above, but let's be honest: I suck. I wonder if DCCCCCCCC offers continuing education courses in sucking less.

Joe Tone
Joe Tone

@6f9e391cbd5346490143816422f00e01:disqus  I uploaded the presentation so you can see what I'm looking at: 49,000 subscriptions as of March 8, 2012.

I'm not sure which revenue figure you're quoting. The company at large did about $8 million in digital ad revenue in Q1, but that has nothing to do with the paywall.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

You invalidated your "taste" by thinking Whitt did anything of merit the last 2 years he "wrote."

Uptheironsdallas
Uptheironsdallas

I do read Schutze, Joe. And I also think about what I read. Thus I deem Schutze -at least the Schutze the writes this tripe- a half-wit. His knack for logical fallacies is almost preternatural. Sorry, but it's true. If you would like me to point one (or many) out for you, I'd be happy to do as such. There's a difference between covering what the DMN does and "gotcha games." Alas, "gotcha games" is not only what this particular article "accomplishes," but also what the vast majority of The Observer's DMN related pertain to. 

I know you don't care, but I'm going to waste my time anyway:  You want to make this publication great again?  Get some actual music writers.  Go back and review Corchoran's (sp?) stuff, among others. That man loved MUSIC. All music. Wilonsky, too, was an actual music fan. Even Crain, once he stopped trying to make the scene, became an actual music critic. The jokesters you have now are nothing but jock sniffers, hipsters, and wannabe taste makers.  Get rid of 98% of your food bloggers. They are asinine to say the least. There is so much emphasis on food within this site alone, that it makes one want to eat nothing but Wendy's. Do you realize that you have employees blogging about fantasy Indian food trucks? Do you? How can anyone take this publication seriously? And let's not forget about all the "Dallas doucher" this and making fun of "those" kind of people attitude... when every frickin' day there's yet another 60 picture montage and article about some disco/love-heaven/pseudo-stripper/let's all point at ourselves and the camera-fest party a go-go. How can YOU take this thing seriously?  Finally, if you really want to turn this poop shoot around, for the love of all that's good in this world, find a differing voice. Hire on someone (or better yet, others) with opposing political and social outlooks.  Have you no awareness of just how myopic this publication is?  If the ideas and worldview that is espoused here is so obviously correct, then why not show, first-hand, the opposing worldview?  To me, it's a no-brainer.

richard schumacher
richard schumacher

Sure, so they can all admit their grievous mistake and ask the public to forgive them for wasting so much money and time...  Oops.  I guess not.  Schutze was right again. Looks like it will be up to the feds to save us from ourselves.

richard schumacher
richard schumacher

 I bought the DMN for years until they turned into a house organ for Belo & Pals by pimping the Trinity floodplain tollroad.  If they can put that nonsense behind themselves and regain their integrity I would happily buy them again.  After all *giggle* a world-class city needs a world-class newspaper.

Mickister
Mickister

 "DCCCCCCCC" made me laugh.  If you go a county north, the Cs get even wilder. 

Daily Reader
Daily Reader

 That's still a big number to spend.  Sounds like they're trying to raise some money any way they can.  Putting out a better paper with more informative news would go a long way.

Coblyjudge
Coblyjudge

No no...i meant the prices. I am sorry. I only just now looked at the subscription website for the dallas morning news. It says that it is 3.91 dollars for one week of digital only, all access. For tablet only or mobile only, it is 2.31 dollars for one week. Assuming 49k and 52 weeks, this comes to a total revenue number between 5.9 and 9.2 million dollars per year. This makes sense to me and my limited math...i hope i didnt screw it up again.The 8m that I threw out was just taking the prices that you listed and making them monthly (x 12 months to get 8million, more or less)When you look at the subscription site, you have to dig a little bit since they hide the digital only offers- they are clerly desperate to get people to subscribe to the print copy. Click on 'view all subscription offers'https://dallasnews.regsignup.c...

watchingsouthdetroit
watchingsouthdetroit

Remember as part of their shameless endorsements - the DMN also for years endorsed John Wiley Price and buried many negative stories concerning JWP.  The DMN has been one of JWP's enablers for years.  The DMN is part of the corruption problem in Dallas.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Not to mention the shameless endorsement of school board candidates who, year after year, do NOTHING about the corruption and the shocking disregard for 150,000 children.

I hope the faces of those 150,000 children haunt the Editorial Board of the DMN when they (the Editorial Board) face the end of life on their deathbeds.

CHILDREN spending 8 hours a day in freezing or broiling rooms, eating shit for food, standing in lunch lines for 25 minutes, and enduring bubble test after bubble test after bubble test SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY WERE NOT TAKEN HOME BY PEOPLE RICH ENOUGH TO GIVE THEM SOMETHING BETTER.

richard schumacher
richard schumacher

Disagreements I can live with, but sitting on stories until after an election because they think it will change the outcome to the detriment of a few well-placed people?  No.  Why pay for a local paper if does not honestly defend the local public interest?

billmarvel
billmarvel

Richard,If I dropped every newspaper and magazine I disagreed with, there wouldn't be a thing to read in the house. Even Schutze reads the DMN.

Brad Brazeal
Brad Brazeal

I think your math is correct now, but my guess is that the $8 million in revenue is way overstated as I'm guessing that the DMN is putting the best possible face on the 50,000 subscriber number. It's highly doubtful that all 50,000 digital subscribers paid for 12 months of access.  It'd be interesting to know the average number of months per subscription.

Joe Tone
Joe Tone

I suck at math. Correcting now.

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