Nov 15 2012
08:20 pm

As predicted here and telegraphed by E.W. Scripps management here, KNS editor Jack McElroy says today that the KNS is going behind a paywall.

They are conceding that the CPM online advertising model doesn't work for newspapers (or blogs, either, for that matter). When asked point blank about $20/CPM rates advertised by the KNS, publisher Patrick Birmingham told me to my face that sure, they get those rates. I didn't believe him then, and I don't believe it now. This seems to confirm it. Not that $20/CPMs would pay for the big metal shed on the hill anyway.

Unanswered is whether print subscribers will get online access included or will have to pay extra for it.

Print subscriptions have never paid for the print production, distribution, and reporters. Advertising does. And it influences the editorial content at the expense of progressive public policy and better local and state government. Will paid online subscriptions be any different? Not likely.

And with the severe cutbacks in reporting and other editorial content (most of which now seems to come from the Chattanooga, Memphis and Nashville papers under "content sharing" agreements), will people still be willing to pay for an inferior product, either print or online? Will the neanderthal KNS commenters be willing to pay extra to spew their racist, right-wing vitriol on the KNS website? Is that the new KNS business model?

Should be interesting.

The bottom line problem is that many among the Napster generation are conditioned to think that information has no value and that intellectual property should be given away for free. They've clearly never gone down to the courthouse to sit through interminable meeting after meeting of the County Commission, School Board, etc. to report on the proceedings, or otherwise created anything of value themselves.

Brian A.'s picture

Will the neanderthal KNS

Will the neanderthal KNS commenters be willing to pay extra to spew their racist, right-wing vitriol on the KNS website?

The comment train wrecks are one of the primary reasons I visit the site

R. Neal's picture

Then maybe they should charge

Then maybe they should charge you and pay the neanderthals? :)

But yeah, me too, sometimes.

Pam Strickland's picture

I had a commenter who said

I had a commenter who said this morning that the paywall might mean that they would go away. The implication being that they wouldn't be willing to pay to read my column. The question is but what about the news.

F-Stop's picture

I held off for a long time

I held off for a long time (primarily because I'm poor these days), but I subscribed to NYT last week (digital subscription) . I really do enjoy it and read it quite a bit, so I need to put my money where my mouse is.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


I'm pretty miserly, as you know, but provided the bundled charge isn't too awfully high I'll continue to participate at the KNS site simply because the issues discussed there relate to my hometown.

There have been times, though, that I felt KNS should be compensating me for my "service."

ATSF616's picture

I will miss Sam Venable, Ina

I will miss Sam Venable, Ina Hughes and David Hunter.....and that's it.

Sandra Clark's picture


So you think Venable, Hughs and Hunter should write/work for free?

fischbobber's picture

Paid fairly

I would tend to doubt that their pay is in line with their worth to the brand. I've been a newspaper subscriber for years. I delivered papers for the Sentinel as well. Treating employees fairly and customers intelligently has never been part of their business model. They sell advertising and they cater to those that buy it.

ATSF616's picture

So you think Venable, Hughs

So you think Venable, Hughs and Hunter should write/work for free?

That's not what I said. I subscribed to the print edition, 7 days a week at out-of-state rates -- not cheap, let me assure you -- for almost 20 years.

The Don Williams termination debacle was the final straw.

Fabricant's picture

Doesn't Starbucks offer free

Doesn't Starbucks offer free online access to the NY Times from their stores? Maybe we can get free access to the KNS at participating Chick-fil-a's, or Baptist churches.

Fabricant's picture

Here, here. I'll drink a cup

Here, here. I'll drink a cup of motor oil to that.

Pam Strickland's picture

You get partial access to the

You get partial access to the NYT at Starbucks. You don't get everything. For instance, you don't get Style or Real Estate.

bizgrrl's picture

I have not yet had the need

I have not yet had the need to pay for an on-line newspaper subscription. If I did, I'm pretty sure it would be the NYT.

The Maryville Daily Times now charges for on-line subscriptions, even for hard-copy subscribers. It's been over a year and I've never felt the need to pay for on-line.

The Orlando Sentinel also charges for on-line content. They give a certain number of views at no charge. I now limit my views. I will not pay for their on-line content either.

The New York Times charges for on-line content. Like the Orlando sentinel, they give a certain number of views at no charge. Again, I now limit my views. I will consider paying for their on-line content.

Will have to wait on the KNS on-line content pricing to know if I'm willing to pay for their content.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Sandra, I always heard that print subscriptions never paid for newspapers, either, that advertising did.

Why, then, are newspapers now trying what appears to be a failed model of relying on subscriptions, rather than just increasing their online ad rates?

I'm not being a smart-aleck, I'm asking. I don't know much about this sort of thing?

B Harmon's picture


Since I have never paid for an online paper, I am curious how much it would cost and whether it would be accessible from all computers in the house and whether one can access it away from the house as well.

If it keeps all the stupid pop up and moving ads from interrupting constantly, that alone may be worth it, along with making all the idiots commenting go away.

It still depends on how much it costs. We no longer get the paper version.

xmd's picture

I guess this answers my

I guess this answers my question about a phone survey the other night. It was a 25 min. questionnaire that finally got around to the KNS. It makes sense now about the questions they asked. I thought it would never end.

Average Guy's picture

A la carte

It would be nice if credit/debit card transactions weren't cost prohibitive as to allow small transactions.

I'd pay 50 cents to read local stories of interest to me, but not a monthly fee to get a bunch of AP fluff.

Hope they can make it work, but this feels like a dying gasp.

trobinson's picture

Maybe it's time for Knoxviews

Maybe it's time for Knoxviews to step up to the plate! I'd sooner buy a subscription here than KNS. I fired KNS as my "newspaper" before it was available online. Why would I pay now for an even more inferior product?

Just spitballin' here, but I'd pay to have access to a confederation of independent(ish) news sources like Knoxviews, Metropulse, Shopper News, (even) Journal, etc. long before I'd pay for access to KNS. (I understand that Scripps owns most of the news outlets here, just using these for example).

R. Neal's picture

Maybe it's time for Knoxviews

Maybe it's time for Knoxviews to step up to the plate!

I appreciate the thought, but it's harder than it looks. I'd love to be able to hire a couple of freelance reporters, but I'm not sure many folks would buy enough subscriptions to cover it and even ten times the minuscule ad revenue this site gets wouldn't cover it.

Pam Strickland's picture

Yeah, there's a reason that

Yeah, there's a reason that journalists have always poor.

Somebody's picture


"Yeah, there's a reason that journalists have always poor."


Sandra Clark's picture

No free lunch

I've never had the nerve to charge for Shopper-News in any format ... In the early days, when I delivered papers as well as writing and selling ads, I just hoped to make the content interesting enough so that the paper was removed from the box before I showed up the next Monday with another one.

Likewise, I've never had a problem paying people for their work. Pick your poison. You'll either have subscriptions and ads or paywalls and pop-ups or no newspapers at all.

I realize this is a "liberal blog," but goodness. Looks like even you folks would like to pay Ina enough to buy kitty litter. -- s.

Stick's picture

Not sure what you mean by 'this is a "liberal blog"' but...

I think that you've hit the nail on the head... Rule number one: provide a service that people are willing to pay for. KNS has been trolling for the lowest common denominator for quite some time. This has long plagued the newspaper industry. Their response to technological change has been to gut investigative reporting and move toward cheap content that offers little to no value and drives away readers. This leads to a loss of readers and further cuts and so forth. I have no sympathy. If you want my money then provide a good service.

That is why I get the majority of my news from professional blogs run by people with expertise in the field. Why would I want to get information from poorly trained, under-sourced, over-worked individuals who simply repeat conventional wisdom that is seldom wise? Fiscal cliff anyone?

Somebody's picture

With some notable exceptions,

With some notable exceptions, the Sentinel has not been great in recent years. I also think that their management has fundamentally misunderstood their place in the modern, local media world. They should be the place that produces in-depth, fact-checked coverage of local news. Forget about getting ahead of the blogs or trying to compete with or entice the commentariat.

That said, perhaps the paywall can provide them with an opportunity. If they offer enough quality content, having paying customers may provide them with the resources to do it.

I think about the Karns Volunteer Fire Department. For years, they operated on charitable donations and provided everyone in their area with the same level of service for free, whether they had donated or not. Not surprisingly, that business model didn't work. Too few donations meant that old equipment just stayed old, and resources for training and manning fire stations weren't there. Then they essentially went behind a paywall. Subscribers pay a fee and get all the service they need. Non-subscribers also get all the service they need, but then they get an itemized bill. With the paywall, they bring in enough money to buy new equipment, train personnel, and replace wooden shacks with actual fire stations. Improved ISO ratings may actually end up reducing homeowners' insurance rates enough to cover the cost of the subscription.

So if the Sentinel can use what they get from the paywall to beef up their content, they very well may succeed. On the other hand, if the paywall is just an added fee to access the same stuff, they're in trouble.

R. Neal's picture

Scripps newspapers adopting

Scripps newspapers adopting paywalls

The E. W. Scripps Company (SSP) -NYSE
9.20 -0.22 (-2.34%) 10:47AM EST - Nasdaq Real Time Price

Rachel's picture

I have subscribed to the KNS

I have subscribed to the KNS for at least 30 years. I do think its quality has gone downhill pretty steadily - especially the Sunday op-ed section (sorry, Scott, I love ya but I DO miss what used to be a long enjoyable Sunday read). The local columnists featured in the last year or so are particularly, umm, uninteresting is a kind word, I guess.

That said, the editorials themselves are MUCH improved since Scott Barker became ed page editor, and the KNS still has some really good reporters (e.g., Donila, Satterfield, Hickman if they'd bring him out of whatever purgatory they've sent him to).

That said, I won't pay for both online and print access. Not sure which one we'll keep (probably the print version since the spouse likes to read it over his morning coffee).

R. Neal's picture

When the Maryville paper went

When the Maryville paper went behind their paywall, we kept the print subscription and did not pay for the online access, which is extra as the Mrs. mentioned earlier.

If one were to ditch both the print and online KNS, I'm not sure what you'd be giving up. Mainly local columnists, Josh Flory's business reprts, Frank Munger's ORNL reports, and whatever all that stuff is in the "lifestyle" and religion sections. And the coupons, but we don't use them anyway.

Most of the other stuff is covered somewhere else, such as the Shopper for local government news (plus the CTV website and lots of press releases on the City and County websites), local TV news for all the sports and stabbings and shootings and sensational trials (and occasionally some local government), and the Chattanooga paper for TVA news (which is where the KNS seems to get it these days anyway), and anywhere on the internet for entertainment "news" and gossip, etc.

Metro Pulse has a couple of local columnists, and the Nashville alt-weeklies cover state government to an extent. (Unfortunately, the Tennessean is also behind a paywall, but the interesting state government stuff usually finds its way into the Clarksville or Kingsport papers, some of it from the Tennessean.)

Newspapers have also been obsolete for national and world news for more than a decade new. If you really need top-notch in-depth reporting on it, though, you can spring for a NYT web subscription, which is about the only online subscription I'd be willing to pay for.

I also don't understand why the KNS runs those stock price listings on Saturday or whenever it is. Cheap filler? Anybody interested in that is already wired into free real time 7/24 info from their brokerage or Yahoo or Google or dozens of other places.

Somebody's picture

Newspapers have also been

Newspapers have also been obsolete for national and world news for more than a decade new. If you really need top-notch in-depth reporting on it, though, you can spring for a NYT web subscription, which is about the only online subscription I'd be willing to pay for.

Boom. This is what I keep trying to say, if any of you KNS folks are reading this. I think NYT dabbles in reader comments, but not on every article, and it's pretty innocuous wherever it does appear. People now pay to read the NYT because of original content. It's good. It's well-written. It offers depth. It doesn't try to be anything other than plain, old-school journalism. Even the guy who runs one of these blog chatterboard thingies says this has value.

Now, as for all the other sources mentioned for local and state news, yes, a person could go all those places to dig it up, or, if KNS provides original content that's good, well-written and offers depth, readers could just pay a reasonable subscription and go to to find it all in one place. It's an opportunity, I tell you.

Rachel's picture

I haven't read the KNS for

I haven't read the KNS for national news in years. I DO rely on it for local news coverage - some of which is excellent, some of which is ok, and some of which is not so great.

Memphis Slim's picture

This is the first step towards 3 or 4 day publication schedule

This paywall thing will blow up in McElroy's face like a short fuse firecracker and most Gannett newspapers have chosen other methodology to avoid such charring.

The much balleyhooed pay for "Xtras" for University of Tennessee sports coverages were collosal failures and the quality of the entire News Sentinel journalistic effort continues to spiral downward and out of control.

Asking people to pay for irrelevant, poorly written, barely researched content is like a street corner bum asking for a handout so he can get a cab to Ashe's package store.

Perhaps, if Scripps had been much more focued on journalistic excellence, integrity, and media ethics, they wouldn't find so many of their longstanding newspapers languishing on the shallow reefs of irrelevance. Reporters not asking tough questions, rewriting PR releases from Moxley, Ackermann, and Cohen, looking the other way on obvious public official and elected officials malfeasance, and an editorial "agenda" and "hit list" has a price and it is a price that the knowledgable public will not pay for paywall access in East Tennessee.

There have been a number of solid, ethical, and hard nosed newspaper people at KNS over the years, however,there are none over there now and you'd have a hard time finding anybody over there now that knows the difference between Cas Walker and Johnnie Walker, what happened to the Knoxville City School System, who Knoxville's largest for profit employers really are, and why Knoxville and Knox County continues to employee so many government spokespersons?

Once this "revenue" initiative flops,we'll see Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday publications with the carriers, office staff, and production groups compressed into a five day workweek which will include the weekend days.

Readers will buy a good product, buy a good read, or buy critical analysis and insight, however, they won't pay Sam, Sandra, Ina, or anybody else to write just because they write for a Scripps paper, they'll pay for an excellent product in an already crowded and competitive marketplace that has completely passed Scripps by.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.

More information about formatting options

This question is used to make sure you are a human visitor and to prevent spam submissions.


TN Progressive

TN Politics

Knox TN Today

Local TV News

News Sentinel

State News

Local .GOV

State .GOV

Wire Reports

Lost Medicaid Funding

To date, the failure to expand Medicaid/TennCare has cost the State of Tennessee ? in lost federal funding. (Source)

Monthly archive