WCPO, an E.W. Scripps station in Cincinnati, making an unprecedented move to start a digital website paywall, is kind of rebelling against what I had assumed was the universal stance of TV stations: to provide website content for free.
Don’t worry, local Cincinnati viewers-- you’ll still be able to get crucial news, weather and information free. But “premium” content? That’s another story.
The station believes more in-depth content --investigative stories, news features, and arts and entertainment -- is worth paying for.
“We believe that in order for a local brand to establish dominance, you have to play very hard where the consumer is going, and the consumer is going on to digital platforms,” Adam Symson, Scripps’ chief digital officer, told NetNewsCheck. The station hasn’t revealed subscription price specifics as yet.
The early digital/Internet promise for TV stations was that they could make money as they already did with traditional TV transmission: Send out the signal for free and get advertisers to buy time against that content. While stations have made some gains in this area, there hasn’t been the rapid growth many expected --- especially in the mobile arena.
As an experiment, local TV paywalls for digital sounds intriguing. But in reality, consumers have a clear distinction when it comes to paying for digital stuff -- think Netflix and Hulu.
Scripps executives point to newspapers -- especially national newspapers like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal -- as an example of where the paywall attraction comes from. While total revenues aren’t big, profit margins are crazy high. Some TV stations feel they can do the same.
But for consumers to get that message, they would seem to need a more general marketing message from all local news players -- not just a few -- that original, investigative news reporting has enough big value versus other stuff on the Internet that they should pay for it.
That’s the “brand dominance” WCPO and other stations need for this to work.