The Razorbacks begin fall practice on August 6th. But if you want to read about the Hogs first football practice of the 2009 season in the online editions of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette or Northwest Arkansas Times, you’re probably going to have to pay up for it.
That’s because starting on August 5th, only current print subscribers or online readers willing to pay $5.95 per month (or $59.00 per year) will be able to view daily newspaper stories on their online properties, NWAnews.com and WholeHogSports.com. (Thankfully, The Slophouse blog will continue to be free.)
While we won’t attempt to debate here the future viablity of the newspaper industry, no one should be surprised by this move. Publisher Walter Hussman, Jr. has for several years been an advocate of closing off free online access to the articles in his daily newspapers.
The bad timing for Razorback football fans, of course, may or may not be coincidental. Typically, some of the highest traffic volume of the year here on this site is the first week of fall practice. So if you’re going to charge for Razorback-related online content, that’s probably as good a time as ever to start.
The press release announcing the move yesterday cited the heated newspaper competition in Northwest Arkansas as one of the reasons why this change hasn’t happened until now. It will be interesting to see how long it takes the Stephens Media newspapers to make a similar move now that one side has ‘blinked.’
Hussman’s argument that there’s no business model (i.e. money to be made) in giving something away is certainly understandable. While Hussman’s family is believed to be one of the richest in Arkansas, the journalists and other newspaper employees who work for him certainly have to put food on the table. Fans as well as ‘enthusiasts’ like us who have ‘real jobs’ and produce online content as a part-time endeavour certainly understand that, too.
As for how this change affects our site, we’ve always had a standing policy to not link to paid content — mainly to avoid sending our readers to articles they couldn’t view. But I guess we may have to reconsider that now. We’re looking into how we would update our News section to designate articles that are paid content.
As for our little corner of the Internet, as we said when we first started, the content we produce for this site will continue to be “freeâ€¦with no hidden fees or surcharges.”
No surcharges, that is, unless you decide to click on some of the newspaper article links.