A fine newspaper has gone underground, and I have to wonder whether we'll ever hear from it again. As you might know, the Register installed an online paywall that blocks most of the paper's content for anyone without a subscription or $2 digital day pass. None of the "we'll-let-you-read-10-stories-a-month-for-free" programs you'll find at many other papers. Under the Register's plan, either you pay or you don't get through. It's part of the paper's renewed emphasis on the print product - or more to the point, print subscribers. Those folks have been paying for something that everyone on the Web gets for free, and that's unfair. I get it. But the doubling down on print is a dubious course. While waiting to get on an early morning flight to Seattle last week, I counted the number of passengers who were reading print newspapers. The sad tally: Three, and one of them was me. Print is dying - it couldn't be more clear. The Register will no doubt stick to its print strategy for another year, maybe two. But does anyone really expect people under 50 to be reading newspapers in five years? From Mathew Ingram:
To be clear, I think the anti-social aspects of what the Register is doing are bad -- not just for the newspaper, but for society as a whole, since discussion around news events has public value, and engaging with readers has journalistic value. And I'm not sure I buy the argument that print-advertising revenue will rebound and even grow if the Register puts more money into the paper. I think the advertising industry is being disrupted just like the media industry is, and I'm not convinced the genie will go back in the bottle quite so easily. That said, however, at least the Register isn't trying to suck and blow at the same time, the way so many other newspapers are. Spitz and Kushner aren't trying a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and hoping that they can be both web-native and print-focused at the same time -- they are unabashedly committed to their view, and they are pouring everything they have into it, and that deserves some respect.