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After Only Four Months the Chronicle Kills its Paywall

| August 13, 2013
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The Chronicle. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Chronicle. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

On Monday the San Francisco Chronicle announced to staff that the paper will end its short-lived paywall separating Chronicle and SFGatecontent. All Chronicle content will now also appear on SFGate.

In a memo, Chronicle executives Joanne Bradford and Jeffrey Johnson said that they believe “we can grow the SFGate audience and revenue faster by having 100% of the SF Chronicle free on it everyday.” The Chronicle website will continue to house an online version of the paper. Bradford and Johnson wrote that the paper will continue to experiment to find the right “membership offering” to drive digital subscriptions.

The Chronicle’s former president, Mark Adkins, announced the paywall four months ago, calling the move “one more step in this Chronicle’s journey through the digital age.” Since then Adkins was transferred to Beaumont, Texas.

The Chronicle’s spokesman, Michael Keith, said that the paper has “no comment.”

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About the Author ()

Lisa Pickoff-White is KQED's Senior Interactive News Producer. Her work has been honored with awards from the Online News Association, Investigative Reporters and Editors, Society of Professional Journalists and SXSW Interactive. Lisa specializes in visual journalism, including photography and data. Reach Lisa Pickoff-White at lpickoffwhite@kqed.org.
  • SocraticGadfly

    Were I running the Chronicle, the next time I needed to swing a layoff ax, I believe I know who’d go first: Editorial staffers deliberately undercutting the paywall, even if it’s kind of poorly designed.

  • Asok Asus

    Paywall up, paywall down. Paywall up, paywall down. These are just more convulsions of the dying newspaper industry.

    The Internet comet crashed to earth in 1998 and killed the newspaper dinosaurs, who existed solely because they could create monopoly conditions for local advertising. The newspapers were killed by the digital revolution with the formation of craigslist, ebay, google, and amazon all around 1998, thus destroying the local advertising monopolies, but their deaths have taken over a decade to register with their pea-sized brains as their mammoth bodies thrashed about.

    Going digital ten years too late means that newspapers have merely become little more than a few additional websites competing with a billion existing web sites for limited advertising dollars. And even worse for the dying papers, ad pages no long bring in thousands of dollars per page, but instead bring in thousandths of a cent per page, so there’s no chance whatsoever of digital ad revenues ever equaling newspaper publishing ad revenues.

    Digital subscriptions, also known as paywalls, never had a chance of working either. Most of what’s behind a paywall is freely available elsewhere, and paywalls render any ads behind the paywalls valueless, meaning no one in their right mind is going to pay for an ad behind a paywall.

    It is true that the loss of news gathering by newspapers is collateral damage from the digital revolution. However, news was never anything more than the hook to get consumers to buy and read the newspaper ads, and for the most part had been turned into little more than leftest propaganda anyway, so the value of the “loss” is highly debatable.

    At any rate, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch, since most U.S. newspapers have been promoting the overthrow of all that is good and unique about the U.S. for at least 70 years. At least buggy whip makers never tried to destroy the U.S.