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Maybe publisher cooperation is a path forward for news, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of public media
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Aug. 11, 2014, 11:57 a.m.
Reporting & Production
LINK: www.netnewscheck.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   August 11, 2014

Last December, we told you about the unusual paywall experiment being tried at Cincinnati’s WCPO TV, a Scripps-owned TV station. Local broadcasters have generally resisted the paywall urge that’s swept through their print peers; the idea that a station might decide to staff up its newsroom, put up a paywall, and bet it could outlast the local daily was a provocative one.

It became even more provocative when Scripps turned itself from a diversified media company into a purely broadcast-and-digital outfit, shipping its papers off to Milwaukee and getting Journal Communications’ stations in return.

Ken Doctor gave a brief update on WCPO last week, but at NetNewsCheck, Michael Depp has a deeper report, emphasizing that the paywalled content isn’t “local TV news’ holy trinity of crime, traffic, and weather,” but closer to a newspaper’s mix:

The [Cincinnati] Enquirer, also behind a paywall and the market’s comScore ratings leader in monthly unique visitors, is also feeling the target on its back. “They had the market to themselves in some respects on some of the coverage we’re trying to do,” [Dave Peterson, the GM for WCPO Digital] says. “I think they’ve stepped up their game in response to us.”

Carolyn Washburn, the Enquirer’s VP and editor, admits as much.

“They’ve made it pretty clear that they intend to go head to head with us,” she says. For the first time, for instance, she says the paper is finding competition on some beats where it once operated solo. “My city hall reporter has one more person covering it than before, so she’s going to pay attention to what that person is covering and be competitive with it,” she says.

Washburn says for the first time in years, Cincinnati is feeling more like a two-newspaper town because of that dynamic. “Though generally I’m not losing any sleep over it,” she says, feeling that the paper is still besting WCPO with more reporters breaking news and providing more depth daily.

(For the record, Cincinnati was a two-newspaper town not that long ago — until 2007, when The Cincinnati Post shut down post-JOA.)

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