Pay Wall


This has been coming for a while. The Asheville Citizen-Times is erecting a pay wall.

Beginning the first of July, people who do not subscribe to the Citizen-Times will have limited access to our content on smartphones, tablet devices and website.

People who subscribe to the Citizen-Times, however, will continue to receive the print edition delivered to their homes or businesses and also will receive [apps, email version, and tablet version].
Nonsubscribers will be able to view 10 news items a month before they will be prompted to subscribe.

Not all of our content, however, will be metered and count against the 10-per-month limit.
For the past 15 years, our print subscribers have subsidized the free digital content that people have been able to access on their computer screens. And for the past 15 years, a lot of our subscribers have said that wasn’t very smart and wasn’t very fair.

We’ll see how it works out. Will some other enterprising local news outlet expand their online local coverage to include a lot more daily news items? That would require investing in more reporters, and I don’t think any of the other news organizations are in a position to do big expansions in response to this move by the AC-T.

News is a business, and businesses have to pay their workers and their overhead. The question is whether people will eschew the AC-T in favor of free alternatives.

Categories : Local, Media, News


  1. James Atkinson says:

    This essentially is the NY Times pay plan. X number of articles free per month, pay wall after that. The Times allows digital-only subscriptions but the AC-T announcement suggests (but does not explicitly say) that subscribers are going to get paper, come what may. I got rid of my bird cage long ago, so I’ll be reading the fine print on that.

    The Citizen-Times ceased being the local paper of record long ago. I wish them luck establishing new revenue streams through subscriptions, but redeveloping core beats and reporters also needs to happen. A serious subscription base will not accrue from “Latest Crime News” alone.

    Do they even send reporters to City Council and County Commission meetings these days? Or to Raleigh for that matter?

  2. Not only are they a bad idea, they’re usually easily defeated.

    I’m not sure why newspapers feel that paywalls are a good idea, especially when they aren’t going to step up and offer any content outside their normal output which would justify such a measure.

    Or, in another context, we might pay ten dollars a month for basic cable but if you want premium content, you fork over more. And we do it gladly because we know what’s on basic is horrible and/or available over the air anyway.

    Old media is failing because they aren’t capable of figuring out certain economic problems that aren’t necessarily exclusive to the media industry. Frankly, I blame the asinine policy of businesses “cutting costs” and “running lean” and “doing less with more” that’s been endemic in American business circles for about thirty years now.

    Funny, almost the same amount of time that the assault on the institutions of our collective society through the erosion of the public sector in favor of a privatized set of contractors looting the public coffers.

    But, hey, what do I know? I’m not a rocket scientist taking the entire month of July off. I’m just a lowly drone/prole.

    Maybe I’d better get back to being mindless.

  3. Davyne Dial says:

    It’s not going to fly. We can now get nearly instantaneous info via the twitter, on emergency stuff. MUCH quicker than ACT puts it out. Their coverage of City Council and County Commission is minimal. Fluff pieces that perpetrate the status quo, like the recent glowing piece on Wanda Greene, are the norm. ACT (on rare occasions gives indepth good coverage) but viable, BELIEVABLE, dynamic reporting of our town, ACT is a constant disappointment.

    Randy has brought down the “hammer” on ACT.

  4. What’s funny is how they will line up their people to endlessly tweet about how awesome this is, like the Charleston Post & Courier did two months ago.


    I think I’ve seen Sandford already doing this today.

  5. And, in the interest of being utterly confusing and spammy, let me crosspost my response to Davyne’s posting on FB here (probably repeats what I said earlier, but feels cleaner):

    I don’t know why they say things like “our print subscribers have subsidized our online edition” when that isn’t true at all. Subscriptions to print papers pretty much only subsidize the delivery drivers, and even that’s probably only partial.

    The problem is that for twenty years everyone’s been fixated with “making money on the internet” which is by and large a pipe dream. Allowing themselves to get swallowed by a corporate giant and turning into just another facet of the utterly useless USA Today was just another example of how local media outlets (which somehow survived for a century or more without national ownership) have pretty much been allowed to die a slow death in this country.

    And, while there are certainly plenty of people who just don’t know better who will gladly shell out the extra money (even though they probably loudly complain about how crappy the paper is), this is just a band-aid on a bullet would for print media.

    And that’s ultimately not good for the people.

  6. Davyne Dial says:

    How long would it take the ACT to publish that a semi had overturned on the Jackson curve (by Sams) so that I’d know to avoid that area. On the Twitter, I knew with-in minutes to avoid that area. Just sayin.

  7. Jake says:

    It’s sad to watch the death throes of a once mighty industry.

  8. Tim Peck says:

    I guess I can delete AC-T from my Favorites list. That should be pretty easy. I can promise that I will not be subscribing to that dreck. Besides, I just don’t do paper.

  9. James Atkinson says:

    Clarification: In response to a reader question in the AC-T comments thread, AC-T’s David Runkle confirms that there will be a digital-only subscription offered at half the rate of the new print subscription rate (also increasing as part of the pay wall changes).

  10. Dixiegirlz says:

    Or rather than “ridiculous,” in this digital age, a newspaper such as ACT is simply outmoded . We want it faster, faster, FASTER! And we get that with digital.

  11. Tim Peck says:

    “there will be a digital-only subscription offered at half the rate”

    And yet, I don’t care.

  12. nick s says:

    We want it faster, faster, FASTER! And we get that with digital.

    Who is this ‘we’? Perhaps you were too impatient to read past suetwo’s first paragraph, because there’s an audience for slower and smarter and more detailed: investigative work, old-school beats and proper community reporting. Independent digital outlets can do that, too, because there’s no word limit and no pressure to appease advertisers or powerful local institutions, but implying that “digital” = “NEWS OF 30 SECONDS AGO!” is just dumb.

    The AC-T is neither fish nor flesh: it’s not fast enough to do breaking news; it’s lacks the depth and smarts to do detailed writeups that transform breaking news into actual journalism.

  13. Davyne Dial says:

    Nick S…this thread is not about me. It’s about ACT thinking they have a highly marketable product.

    And of course it goes without saying, by “we,” I certainly did not mean to arrogantly imply that I speak for the whole collective. We is just a figure of speech. BUT people will read into comments whatever they want.

    I’ve already deleted my ACT bookmark and added a Google news Asheville daily delivery.

  14. So, another question is: Will the AC-T start coming down on local blogs/etc for quoting heavily from their (now behind a paywall) stories?

    *cough* scroohoo *cough* Xpress *cough*

    Not counting Sandford, ’cause he works there. And he’s drunk the Kool-Aid apparently. I’ve seen him on the twitter defending the hell out of this decision and acting defensive about it.