Paywall Delivers Just Enough

by Michelle Corbet  on Monday, Aug. 11, 2014 12:00 am  

A screen-capture of Arkansas Times' Arkansas Blog.

As a blue voice in a red state, the Arkansas Times initially launched its online pay wall as a way for readers to cast their vote for the state’s most reliably liberal news organization.

A year later, has about 815 people who think the paper’s progressive perspective is worth their money.

At $110 a year or $9.99 a month, 815 digital subscriptions would bring in between $89,650 and $97,700 a year. But Editor Lindsey Millar said about “5 percent or so of Times subscribers have elected to pay more,” resulting in annual revenue of about $100,000.

For a small publishing outlet, that’s “real money,” he said. “It allows us to keep everyone employed, it allows us to maintain that liberal voice, and it allows us to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Millar said.

Publisher Alan Leveritt said the revenue from digital membership is basically paying the salary of Senior Editor Max Brantley, plus a small surplus. “That’s a legitimate contribution from a consumer to a producer,” he said.

When the metered pay wall was first introduced on Aug. 1, 2013, all four Arkansas Times’ blogs — Arkansas Blog, Eat Arkansas, Eye Candy and Rock Candy — were behind the paywall, with the rest of the website’s material freely available. Now only the Arkansas Blog and Eat Arkansas are locked down, and Eye Candy has been folded into Rock Candy, which is now outside the paywall.

“The vast majority of subscribers are there for Arkansas Blog,” Millar said.

Leveritt describes Arkansas Blog as “Max’s obsessive collection” of breaking news and political analysis. Arkansas Blog will celebrate 10 years in October with Arkansas Times marking its 40th anniversary the month before.

Brantley, who worked at the Arkansas Gazette nearly 19 years before joining the Times, said that as a daily newspaper reporter he was often frustrated by not being able to break news until the next day. But the Internet changed everything. With the ability to post 24/7, Brantley has created an online presence that his readers are willing to pay for.

Brantley, Leveritt said, “knows where every body in this city is buried, and people are willing to pay to gain access to his information.”

In May, the Times staff recorded its first “Today in Arkansas” video in which Brantley reads the latest headlines from Arkansas Blog with accompanying commentary. The videos are shared on YouTube and Facebook to generate interest in the blog.

Last month, the videos averaged about 120 views each on YouTube, but Millar said they receive far more views on Facebook — about 1,000 a day.



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