Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Is The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Planning A Desperate Ploy

Erik Gunn of Milwaukee Magaizine's "Pressroom Insider," in his weekly online column, points out that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is losing money hand over fist.  As a result, they have already cut 120 positions through attrition.  They have also opened up a buy out plan where employees can voluntarily sever their employment, getting two weeks of pay for every year they've worked there as well as six months of health care and other perks.

Citing many sources, Gunn also speculates on whether MJS is about to set up a pay wall on their site in an effort to get people to subscribe:
Meanwhile, as both AV Club and’s Tim Cuprisin have noticed, in reporting last week on the company’s drop in income, Brenner indicated the likely emergence of a pay wall at the newspaper next year.
It’s a rapidly growing strategy, led by The New York Times’ reintroduction of a pay system earlier this year.
As Paid Content recently noted, the Times’ new system has in six months garnered as many paid subscribers as its old “Times Select” model did in three years.
The circulation of their hard copy paper has been a steady decline, so it only makes sense that people turn to their online stuff, which is, for the moment free. I'm just so sure that their plan is a good one. Many people, including myself, have dropped them within the last six months simply because of their extremely support of Walker and is maleficent policies.  If they decide to go pay-per-view, I can't say that I would be tempted to buy into it.  I would try to find other sources that were more reliable, journalistically and ethically, and more economical.

The one thing that Gunn doesn't mention, but one that I've been speculating to myself for years, is that I would not be surprised in the least if MJS decides to try to force the issue by ending publication of the dead tree version of their paper.  That way they could really force people into having to buy their online paper or go without written news whatsoever.

Between their subscriptions and ad revenue and the money they'd be saving by cutting out almost all of their ink and paper publishing, Steve Smith and the Board probably think they can make quiet a make a pretty profit.  That's if there's still anyone who could afford to throw their money away like that.


  1. I can't see paper press dieing off completely any time soon. Too many folk yet free of the web.

  2. You know what? Advertisers are perfectly willing to pay to put their ads in front of our eyes. JSOnline just hasn't given them the opportunity. Take a look at any 3 random stories over there and you'll see the exact same ads on each page; mortgage lending, aging cream and penny stocks. At least, and thank god, the teeth whitener ads have been replaced. For example, I got those three for stories on Lake Express Ferry, medical devices for spinal surgery, and plans for a Milwaukee streetcar. Imagine if the ads would be for bed and breakfasts in MI, post operative pain relief hypnosis, and Milwaukee taxi cab companies. Would you be more inclined to click?

    Such contextual advertising is readily available (Google AdWords/AdSense anyone?). And not only that, they not only pay off on today's stories, but get clicks on every story the paper would choose to place online. They are sitting on 150+ years of content, a gold mine, and don't know it. These stories would attract visitors from around the world who would in turn click ads. Content and a decent search engine strategy and they would have no problem retaining employees.

  3. led by The New York Times

    They're cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs if they're thinking they have the same market as the NYT, only smaller.

  4. Their NFL coverage is pretty solid though and might be worth paying for...

  5. You can get sports coverage anywhere. But with their history of spinning things so much, if not committing sins of omission, I cancelled my subscription six months ago. Don't really miss it either.

  6. Our family canceled our subscription in November and haven't missed it (and I try to avoid visiting their website). I'm hoping though that at some point a site like OnMilwaukee or someone will start doing more news reporting.