Wednesday, June 11, 2008

From the archives... UPDATED

The petulant self-appointed pope of south Florida bloggers has taken issue with my suggestion to free the Herald's digital archives which are currently in jail behind a pay wall. He claims the Herald makes more money with the pay per view model than with an ad supported model that's free to readers. In the comments section I responded, explaining how many of the most visited newspaper and magazine sites offer free archives going back at least a couple of years with most offering more than 15 years worth of free archives.

But here's another opinion. It comes, ironically enough, from an article in the New York Times' archive from September of last year when the Times announced that it was dropping it's paid archive model which was at the time generating $10 MILLION a year in revenue:

“But our projections for growth on that paid subscriber base were low, compared to the growth of online advertising,” said Vivian L. Schiller, senior vice president and general manager of the site,

What changed, The Times said, was that many more readers started coming to the site from search engines and links on other sites instead of coming directly to These indirect readers, unable to get access to articles behind the pay wall and less likely to pay subscription fees than the more loyal direct users, were seen as opportunities for more page views and increased advertising revenue.
The article also states that at the time of the decision, "the Times’s site [had] about 13 million unique visitors each month, according to Nielsen/NetRatings."

As of March of 2008, the Times site was drawing 18.8 million unique visitors (that link is, incidentally, to free archived article from Editor & Publisher). That's a 44% rise in web site traffic in a little more than half a year. And the Times already had the most visited newspaper web site in the country BEFORE it made many of its archived articles available for free viewing.

Do I think this is going to save the Herald? No, of course not. The failure to follow industry leaders in this area is but a symptom of what ails the Herald. It demonstrates a "head in the sand" mentality that must be prevalent at McClatchy headquarters and at 1 Herald Plaza while Rome is burning.


Because 'Pope Pompous I' continues to defend his asinine position (simply because its contrary to mine), I thought I'd point out that the top news web site of any kind in America is Of course, CNN's free archives go back to 1996. The point is that if you are going to have a web site, and you want it to be a "successful web site", that is to say one that is a viable business, then maybe you should model it after, you know, other web sites that are successful.


Rick said...

Henry: If you're going to take issue with something I wrote please quote it so that you don't distort it to suit your argument. This is what I said, word for word...

While I agree that it would be nice that some archival information is available online [say 5-10 years worth], the revenue generated from the ads that come up when researchers, mostly professional in nature I would imagine, are working on a project and are in the archives would be minuscule, in my opinion. But that's just my guess. Apparently you have the figures of what these ads generate in dollars for the Herald and have determined that it is indeed a great way for them to make some money. Right?

Compare this to what you said I said...

He claims the Herald makes more money with the pay per view model than with an ad supported model that's free to readers.

...and it's not even close.

You see, I don't know how much money the ads generate at the Herald and that is why I said that I'm "guessing." You, on the other hand, are making definitive statements and are now using the New York Times to prove your point. I mean, WTF? Really? You're saying that the same potential that exists with the Times that has an extensive worldwide readership is the same as the Herald that is struggling locally and barely reaches down into Central and South America? You have got to be kidding.

Bottom line is that you don't have the numbers. You don't have the math. And you're talking out of your ass.

Finally, how's about climbing out of your high school mode with the "pope of the bloggers" moniker you've crowned me with. Play your silly games and don't link to me. I could give two sh*ts less. But Christ Almighty, dude, grow the f*ck up.


Henry Louis Gomez said...

Rick, first of all your pontificate doesn't extend to my blogs. Your dictates are worthless here. I blog as please, about what I please when I please.

You state that the ad revenue from free archives would be "miniscule" then throw in "that's just my guess." Which is the same exact thing as talking out of your ass. Which is exactly what I accused you of.

You completely ignore the fact that the Times online readership went up 44% in six months after dumping thousands of articles onto the web that could be searched and found by google et, al.

Let's say the Herald currently has 300 or 400 live pages of HTML and the suddenly decided to take down the paid firewall that conceals its archives we'd be talking about multiplying the Heralds footprint on the web by many many times. More than 20 years of articles.

That doesn't mean the Herald is going to compete with the times but we should see a proportional increase in web traffic. And the traffic would be coming from all over the country making the site more attractive to national advertisers not just local ones.

And it's not just the times dicklick. When I went looking at other top newspaper sites to see how far back their free archives go I used "hurricane andrew" as my search terms. Right now if I were researching Hurricane Andrew I'd find plenty of readily accessible articles from Newsweek and the NYT and WaPo but not from the one paper that I should find that information from.


As another commenter posted and unwittingly making a point for me, the Herald's archives are a valuable source of local history and instead of using it smartly, they have it locked up.

Nobody will ever confuse you with a mensa club member.

Rick said...

It is just my guess. I have nothing to support my opinion other than my gut feeling. But you're claiming that I'm making definitive statements and I'm not. You are, on the hand, making definitive claims supported by nothing other than what has happened at the NYT, which again, is a whole other class of newspaper than the Herald.

I'm going to choose to ignore your infantile language, Gomez, and point out to you that when do a Google search that results in Herald archival content, you still get sent to the Herald pages, it's just that you get a synopsis and then have to pay to get the rest. Am I right?

So the Herald is still getting the search engine traffic to its pages, it's just that full content is not being accessed by the readers.

Seriously, a great project for you would be to get the numbers on how many searches are being done on the Herald archives. It would probably support your argument and you could actually call me a few more names.

Honestly, Henry, I'm trying to be civil here. You and your mouth make it extremely difficult.

Henry Louis Gomez said...

Rick, every comment you make, every post you write about me, is dripping with condescension. I think you are a miserable guy trying to spread your misery to others. Do yourself a favor and forget about me. I hardly even think about you anymore and I'm much happier for it. Try it.

And no, I've never found an archived Herald article through a google search (not news search for current items). I have to use MDPLS or Cubanet or other sources that have Herald content on them.

Again, I state my belief that if you are a minor player in an industry that it's perhaps smart to take a look at what the major players are doing, figure out why they are doing it, and seriously consider doing it. That doesn't mean that there isn't room for innovation. But seriously, where has the Herald innovated in this era of the net? They need to figure out the basics of internet.

The Herald NEEDS to operate from the premise that its online presence IS its main presence. That makes the Herald a Web Site not a newspaper. And your goal should be gain more readers and more traffic because ALL of the most successful web sites are freely accessed and ad supported.

Rick said...

Again, I state my belief that if you are a minor player in an industry that it's perhaps smart to take a look at what the major players are doing, figure out why they are doing it, and seriously consider doing it.

There is no doubt that learning what works and what doesn't work from other newspapers, let alone "the majors," could do nothing but help the Herald, Henry.

All I am saying is that I believe the Herald's problems run much deeper than their archives access and to claim that this is one of the keys to getting the Herald profitable is a little optimistic, unless, of course, you have some stats to back it up.

Now if that's condescending then I'm guilty.

FYI: And of course you're not going to find old news in a "current Google news search," but there is the "Google archives" in the left sidebar that comes up and can be accessed.


Henry Louis Gomez said...

You only understand what you want to understand.

The whole point of this post and the other post with my suggestions was to underscore the fact that a lot of the old way of doing things needs to be thrown away.

The Herald is not going to be in the printing and distribution business anymore (that's probably where the majority of the operating expenses are, in trucks, printing presses, paper, ink). The Herald has to quickly (because they are late) evolve into an information provider. What's important is the words, not the paper its printed on.

There's a whole other business model and a different competitive set out there. As I said, if I were looking for stories about Hurricane andrew, google would drive me to WaPo, the NYT, Newsweek etc. At each of those sites I'd be served ads. Now I'm only one person, but in the aggregate we're talking about millions of people surfing the net consuming information every day and the number is growing as broadband is penetrating even into areas where there was once a "digital divide".

If your in the web site business with a web site's business model, then your goal is to optimize readership by providing content the public demands. Now if the stuff the Herald produces just isn't interesting enough in comparison to other sources that's a major problem. But I posit to you that there are many things in the Herald that readers around the country might be interested in. The obvious one is the coverage of the Americas. Very few newspapers have consistently covered Latin America in as much depth as the Herald.

In the end, we will see. If I am right one of two things will happen. 1. The Herald will continue to circle the drain until they blow the whole thing up and a new management team or ownership makes radical changes (among which will be greater free access to electronic archives) or 2. The current management team will make gradual changes among which is this one.

If I'm wrong, five years from now the Herald will continue to have its pay per view policy for archives. I'll be here. I'm betting that I'm right.