To state the obvious: Time is money. Perhaps less obvious to those who will never land on this URL, is that more and more people are spending their valuable time on things that are not newspaper journalism (read: woke AF Netflix documentaries, social media and, yes, Buzzfeed quizzes).
The privilege of being able to infinitely scroll through endless layers of content is a luxury afforded to those with access to a reliable phone or computer, a good wifi or data plan and the cognitive ability to read and understand information on a screen.
The less fortunate in the world rely partly on journalists to stand up for them by speaking truth to power. Other papers, like ours, spend our time highlighting the most meaningful local issues affecting our city's food, music, arts and political scenes. Some of our pals take all of that a step further by hiring journalists to spend months, sometimes years, working on big stories.
That’s why the Tampa Bay Times is bringing back its paywall, er, pay meter. The paper tried it in 2013, and tweaked it once more in 2016, and a Tuesday morning visit to tampabay.com unveiled a note from Executive Editor Mark Katches, who offered an explanation for this latest iteration.
“The quality journalism we practice at the Times takes money. We have to find more ways to pay for it,” he wrote. To drive the point home, Katches added that the paper’s coverage of deaths at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital cost the newsroom an estimated $225,000.
“And that’s probably conservative,” Katches added. That year-long investigation led to the resignation of several hospital officials. In a perfect world, it’ll also lead to better oversight and patient care at the facility. The new paywall (er, meter, it’s a METER, people!) seeks to raise capital so that the paper can do more of that.
Spokespeople from the Times said that there is no set number of articles that readers can access before the pay meter begins shaking change out of your pocket (subscribers can obviously sign in to get full access).
“The amount of content a reader can access for free will vary based upon how often they visit, what they read and other factors,” Sherri Day, the Times' communications and grants director, told CL. “Our goal is to provide potential customers with enough content to assure them that there is great value in buying a subscription.”
“We’re confident in the value of our journalism and that readers will support quality reporting,” Conan Gallaty, the Times’ executive vice president and chief digital officer, told CL. “Tampabay.com showcases the best work of the Tampa Bay Times to more than five million readers each month. Even a small percentage of this audience can help fund a large part of our news gathering costs.”