A new model for media paywalls?

by on August 27, 2013 at 12:41 pm in Political Science, Weblogs | Permalink

The famous political science blog Monkey Cage will be joining The Washington Post (congratulations!) and apparently this will be the arrangement:

Actually, we negotiated a one year exemption from the paywall. So for first 12 months, not at all. After that, will continue to be open to anyone with .edu, .mil, and .gov accounts.

Ted Craig August 27, 2013 at 1:12 pm

So, the new model is an unfair model?

Jim D August 27, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Why does their business model need to be “fair” in any sense that you might mean it here? Should they make it open to everyone despite their desire to monetize their readers’ use of the site? Or should they make everyone pay, despite it being in their own interests to offer open access to select groups?

Ted Craig August 27, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Is it in their own interest or does it reflect their own prejudice?

Jim D. August 27, 2013 at 4:51 pm

It may also reflect a prejudice– I’m not familiar with them to say. However, considering their content is political coverage, my guess would be a recognized value in having a high readership among those who typically follow politics closely, e.g., those working in government, academia, etc, even if that is in addition to some sort of bias. It’s little different than software vendors like Adobe that give copies of their products to schools & their students for pennies on the dollar– there’s a vested interest in having the most likely future users of their products caught in their ecosystem as soon as possible.

I also wouldn’t ignore the possibility that it is simply a necessary compromise they had to agree to with the WaPo management (since many newspapers feel they need to try the pay wall experiment, despite the lack of success it has seen in the industry thus far, for what amounts to commodity-level journalism that can be read elsewhere at no cost) Before this, Monkey Cage was open to all with no paywall.

bmcburney August 28, 2013 at 1:25 pm

It’s another example of the slow accretion of special privileges for government employees and hangers-on. Whether it also makes sense as a commercial strategy doesn’t matter much. In fact, it seems worse that nomially commercial actors feel it necessary to give special privileges to those that run our lives for us.

Andrew' August 27, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Why does unfairness have to be fairness?

They forgot to note the free access by .nsa .blogint accounts.

Rahul August 27, 2013 at 1:28 pm

“This was one of the trade-offs we faced: the opportunity to expand our readership fairly dramatically versus the likelihood that some current readers would not transition with us to the Post or want to pay for any content at the Post.”

Ironic, that going behind a pay-wall can actually expand your readership.

mulp August 27, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Just like the rest of the government supported intellectual elites….

As a mere taxpayer, I find I’m denied access to lots of the papers and publications my taxes help pay for in the “private sector” on the basis that government research should seek profit in the market by selling their IP.

So, this is consistent with that with I having to pay for the Internet infrastructure and the political animals that the Monkey Cage will be feeding and goading into lots of roars, screeches, fighting, biting, and maybe into a chimp grabbing a money and ripping it apart getting really bloody, and then charging me to find out what I’m paying for with my taxes.

Did they need to pay admission to the Roman Coliseum to see lots of different animals slaughtered, followed by the human battles, as a distraction from the ills of the dysfunctional Roman Empire?

Skip Intro August 27, 2013 at 8:03 pm

Never read The Monkey Cage, have you?

Jim D August 27, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Why does their business model need to be “fair” in any sense that you might mean it here? Should they make it open to everyone despite their desire to monetize their readers’ use of the site? Or should they make everyone pay, despite it being in their own interests to offer open access to select groups?

Z August 27, 2013 at 3:09 pm

I have to chuckle at how pay walls are treated as new ideas. It really shows how our media is usually the last ones to know something. Way back in the 1990′s college sports publications made the transition from print to digital. Many signed onto Rivals and then ESPN, Scout. Others went on-line as stand alone webzines/forums. The initial move found that 90% of the subscription base made the move to digital, but at lower prices. Over time the subs went up, but then began to decline. Rivals saw their subscriber base peak five or six years ago. ESPN found they were better at selling the dead tree mag and just throwing in the website subscription.

Newspapers seem to be following the same pattern, more or less. the NYTimes claims a digital subscriber base of 750,000. It has leveled off, which follows the pattern as well. The trouble will come as other news sites start charging. Users are not going to pay for a dozen sites so that means all sites get a drop in traffic. it will be interesting to see if the subs decline as more and more sites begin to charge for content.

Cynthia Typaldos August 27, 2013 at 11:56 pm

Since most college grads have an alum email account with .edu, this is really a “tax” on those that didn’t go to college (or aren’t part of a college/univ now). Not sure if that makes any sense. On the other hand, I have to admit I have never read the Monkey Cage so maybe this is a moot point.

dead serious August 28, 2013 at 8:56 am

I went to three colleges/universities and don’t have an .edu account at any of them.

Are you allowed to keep an .edu account in perpetuity?

commentariette August 28, 2013 at 10:03 am

Who can have an account in a system and for how long is entirely up to whoever administrates the system. Most schools delete accounts shortly after a student leaves or graduates. Some schools give permanent email addresses to their alums — it’s a very cheap and easy way keep future donors feeling connected.

Note that having a .edu email account (name@alum.example.edu) is completely unrelated to accessing material through a paywall such as the one above. That requires accessing the internet from an IP address that resolves in .edu, .gov. or .mil.

Cynthia Typaldos September 1, 2013 at 10:22 pm

Are you sure? The statement says “account” and that usually means the account you set up with an email address.

Jacques René Giguère. August 29, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Foreign academics,gov. workers and military will be kept ignorant of american politics? To be on par with U.S academics,gov and military who are ignorant of foreign news?

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