Monday, January 23, 2012

On the future of this blog

I work, as you probably know, for The Free Press, the daily newspaper in Mankato, Minn. My job is copy editing and page design. The weekly in-season baseball column is something extra. So is this blog.

In the early months of 2007, I came to Joe Spear, the managing editor of The Free Press, and said: I want to start a baseball blog. If you want it on our website, great; if you don't, that's OK too, but I want to do this somewhere, somehow. He immediately said he wanted it on The Free Press site.

Our then-webmaster fairly quickly set up a crude blog platform within our site. It allowed no comments and required me to write out the html commands to create hyperlinks. It was clumsy and inconvenient and not all that accessible. And I used that for a bit more than two years. Perhaps that setup would have been improved with time, but the webmaster left our employ, and there was no successor.

By 2009 a few other staffers were blogging. They weren't using the in-house platform that had been set up for me; they were using Blogger, with links from the Free Press homepage to the blogs. I was, let us say, "encouraged" to shift to Blogger also. I was wary of the change, largely because I was not impressed by the tone of comments on Free Press stories, but in May I made the jump. (And the comment problem has not been an issue here; thank you.)

The new platform was easy and versatile. It also isn't really part of The Free Press website. Today, in the middle of the offseason, I'm drawing (according to Google Stats) about 8,800 visits a month; very few are coming through my employer's site, which means The Free Press isn't gaining much from all my blog activity.

All this is relevant because sometime this month The Free Press will install a paywall. (Here's the publisher's explanation.) Let me say here that I have absolutely no quarrel with this decision; I favor it, and have for some time. The give-it-away model isn't working financially for newspapers in general and The Free Press in particular, and isn't going to. 

As matters stand, of course, this would have little effect on this blog. Most of you don't come here through The Free Press site. You come from other blogs, through bookmarks, through search engines ... and as long as the Outsider is on Blogger, those alternative routes are going to be there.

But that may not last much longer. Two thousand-plus visitors a week, many/most of whom are otherwise not Free Press customers, has an obvious attraction. Given that Jim Santori specifically mentions the blogs as something to be affected by the paywall, I assume this blog is likely to move once more. 

I'll let you know when I know.


  1. Ed, hoping this blog stays paywall free, because, despite your great content, I'm pretty much against paying for it when so much of it is free.

    Keep up the great work. (And since this is kinda a side thing, wouldn't there be opportunity for this to stay apart?)

  2. I will not pay for online content or access to this blog. While I enjoy this blog a great deal (and have encouraged others to read it), several free alternatives exist, and I will find a replacement. I think paywalls will fail. While I support each company's freedom to make decisions, including decisions to restrict content to those willing to pay for it, I personally will not pay for information that is available for free from millions of other sources. I encourage your superiors to closely consider their projections relative to income arising from the paywall against the loss of online readers and presumably less online advertising revenue and hard copy subscriptions arising from online access.

  3. If the blog is put behind a paywall, I'll miss the blog. But I won't pay for it.

    I suspect that, like me, many of your other readers have no interest in any other content on a Mankato, Minnesota newspaper.

    Sad to read this column. I hope the publisher's decision works well for you -- and I hope that they are paying you a reasonable amount for your column. If not, this whole thing is just ludicrous.

  4. I have long enjoyed your blog, Ed, mostly because you're a local voice and a reasonable and intelligent source of info on the Twins and MLB. If they put this blog behind the paywall, I would probably pay the extra dollar a month as a FP print subscriber. There are other features that I like to access online occasionally, too. But it would be awfully easy to just tell the FP "No thanks." Blogger is a fine platform; I hope they don't make it more inconvenient by moving you somewhere that doesn't work as well. If you're not easy to get to, I probably won't make the effort. There's lots of other fish in the sea.

  5. I think this is one of the better, perhaps the best, Twins blogs out there. That said, there is a lot of competition. Unless you also want the other local content, you aren't going to pay to get through a paywall for it. I would try to convince the publisher that the blog should be on the site, but outside the paywall. It would attract readers for the online advertising and might even bring in a few people who are willing to pay for the other content.

    If he isn't agreeable, you could just limit your posts to ten per month. Since the paywall will allow anyone to read 10 articles per month for free, those who come only for your blog would still have access.

    I hope you work something out. I only found your blog recently and you are one of the most thoughtful out there.

  6. Interesting info here, Ed. Too bad you can't figure out another way. Ads on the blog maybe? In any case, I'll wait and see what the cost is going to be. I do enjoy your posts.

  7. love your blog but, unfortunately, any kind of pay wall will kill it. Might want to think about exploring other options if your contract allows it.

  8. Thanks Ed. I've enjoyed your opinions and insights on the blog over the last year or two. When/if it goes behind the paywall, I will not be following.