• San Antonio Express-News launches paywall

    San Antonio Express-News building
    Photo credit: Sean McGee
    Our new paid site was unveiled today. We still have the free site at that will offer things like breaking news, entertainment and event calendars. But in-depth stories and other features will now be tucked behind a paywall at

    I’m not sure how I feel about paywalls on news sites, but I see some upsides. Thanks to the paywall, we don’t have to chase page views, so there’s no link bait or bikini-babe slideshows. There’s no extra cost for print subscribers, which rewards them for buying the newspaper. And the new site looks drop-dead gorgeous. It’s actually a pleasure to read without the distracting flash ads.

    This is an interesting strategy. will be free and post potentially viral content, while will, hopefully, generate revenue from subscribers.

    What do you think?

  • Long-form journalism project asks for money, raises $100,000 on Kickstarter

    This is pretty great.

    First, a new, in-depth journalism project called Matter set a fundraising goal of $50,000 on Kickstarter.

    They reached it in 38 hours.

    They set a new goal of $75,000.

    They reached it in four days.

    Long form journalism project asks for money  raises  100 000 on Kickstarter   John TedescoThey kept going. This time, the goal was $100,000.

    It took them nine days.

    Can we stop talking about how people don’t want long stories online? Some people obviously do.

    Let’s start talking about the best way to give them those stories.

  • Why you can’t read my news story online, and why that could be a good thing

    police chase front pageI wrote a story about the dangers of police chases that was published in Sunday’s paper. If you’re a subsciber to the San Antonio Express-News or bought Sunday’s edition, you could read my story. But you can’t read it online — it’s been embargoed for a few days.

    I like the Internet. But I like newspapers, too. So I like this new experiment of putting an Internet embargo on a big Sunday story to encourage people to buy the newspaper. It’s actually one of the few innovative ideas generated from our higher-ups. Usually, the only change we hear about in the newsroom is an announcement every once in awhile that there’s going to be some lay offs or a whittling down of the paper, which in turn hurts our quality and gives readers fewer reasons to bother reading our stories.

    But I actually like this idea of embargoed stories. It’s about time we give subscribers a reward for sticking with the paper. We’re jacking up rates yet giving away our content online for free, so we really need to give loyal readers a carrot instead of a stick. And it’s not quite the same thing as a pay wall — my entire story about police chases will be posted online in a few days. We’re just saying: If you pay for the paper, you get first dibs.

    It’d be nice if we take this experiment to the next level: Give subscribers exclusive online content. When my Sunday story is posted online, it will feature a video of a chase taken from a police helicopter; a map of pursuits in San Antonio; a copy of a pursuit-evaluation report for a chase that killed an innocent bystander; and a link to the raw data we analyzed for the story.

    The whole story was based on these primary resources. So if we’re really going to embrace this embargo concept, it’d be cool if we allowed subscribers to go online and check this exclusive content for themselves, before it’s released to the general public.

    Maybe non-subscribers would consider signing up for this type of deal and subscribe. Or, for those who don’t want to receive the dead-tree version of the newspaper, we could allow them to pay a reduced price to sign up for online access to the exclusive stories that are published every Sunday.

    Like I said, I like the Internet. But I also want to figure out a way to share online content, and reward our loyal subscribers who stick with the newspaper. Maybe this is a good compromise.

  • E-N reader sees the future of news?

    San Antonio Express-News
    San Antonio Express-News
    Express-News reader Jamie Blount might have shown us the future of newspapers in this letter to the editor today:

    While I don’t like the dismal news about how newspapers have fallen on hard times, I like the way the San Antonio Express-News has confronted the problem. I read the complete edition of the SAEN online Monday through Thursday and then read the print edition Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This arrangement gives me the flexibility to keep up with the news in ways that are conducive to both my work and personal schedules.

    While I-10 replaced U.S. 90, the airplane replaced the train and TV replaced radio, people continue to use those old modes of travel and communication. Probably, the same could be said about the Internet replacing the newspaper. The old reliable is still in use because it offers attractive, viable alternatives to the modern.

    Blount makes an interesting point. Weekends are when a lot of people have time to sit down and fully digest the newspaper. Weekdays, not so much. But online traffic spikes. An Associated Press story today examined how newspapers are cutting back print operations on less profitable days such as Mondays, when advertising is thin.

    “In an industry struggling with bankruptcy filings, diminished advertising and the exodus of many readers to the Internet, about 100 U.S. newspapers have either reduced the number of days they publish or gone to the Web entirely,” wrote reporter Jim Salter. This is not entirely a bad thing, the story says, since the newspapers save money from reduced production costs. The papers publish later in the week with editions that are their real cash cows.

    So maybe Blount is on to something.

  • Can newspapers learn from Kidd Rock and radio?

    When Rob Huesca saw me last night at Liberty Bar, where I had just finished my weekly dose of tasty lamb burger for the evening, he announced he had figured out this whole “how to save newspapers” quandary that has gripped the media industry for the last few decades or so.

    By the end of our conversation, I halfway believed him.

    Can newspapers learn from Kidd Rock and radio    John TedescoRob is a communications professor at Trinity University, and he said newspapers could learn a lot from radio.

    When you hear a song on radio, the artist gets paid for it. Radio stations pay licensing fees to entities like Broadcast Music Inc. Every time a radio station plays a song from, say, Kidd Rock, BMI pays Kidd Rock.

    For the Internet, what if newspapers and magazines formed their own version of BMI? This consortium would collect a modest monthly subscription fee from readers — Rob threw out a random figure of $12. Readers who subscribe to this service can read any article in any publication anywhere in the country that signs up with the consortium. And for every web hit, the consortium pays a little bit of money to the publication.

    Right now, most newspapers are giving away their Web content for free, which is in keeping with the spirit of the Internet, but the ad revenue from newspaper Web sites isn’t enough to pay for fully staffed newsrooms. So there’s been all kinds of talk about how the media can successfully charge for online content, leading to debates about things like micropayments, online subscriptions, and voluntary donations.

    Rob might be on to something but to make his idea work a lot of newspapers would have to agree to participate. Otherwise, readers would simply gravitate to the free publications. It’d also be nice if people who subscribe to the paper-version of the publication could get a discount or even free subscription to the Internet version. It would give people a reason to subscribe to their physical newspaper, at a time when newspapers are shrinking and there are fewer and fewer reasons to subscribe.

    A BMI model might encourage newspapers to aim for the lowest common denominator to drive up Web traffic, and we could end up with more celebrity stories about people like — heaven forbid — Kidd Rock.

    Or maybe Rob is right and this would be a convenient, relatively painless way for readers to continue getting news from anywhere in the country, while at the same time helping to pay for the expense of reporting the news.