Dayton Daily News puts up a paywall: $9.99 a month

I used to be a subscriber 7 days a week. I read the paper front to back and hated to start the day without it. Unfortunately, towards the end, getting the newspaper on my doorstep before 6 a.m.  was a major problem for them- and I finally gave up when they refused to match my previous year’s “half-price deal’ of getting the paper for $134 a year. I wasn’t going to pay more for a paper that couldn’t get to my door.

Since then, the paper HAS improved, although it’s been marginal at best. They’ve lost a ton of institutional knowledge through layoffs, lousy working conditions and pay and retirement. For a while, I was enjoying being taken to lunch by each new reporter on the city beat as a “help me figure this out” meeting. I read the paper online, via my iPad, where most times I could read 80% of the content in a digital friendly format- and then read the rest by looking at giant pictures in the “replica” edition- which was horrid. The main thing I could read in the replica that I couldn’t read in the user friendly digital (read that as something you can copy and paste- or change the font size on) was the “editorial” pages- and letters to the editor etc. In other words- the part that users generated- was the main thing they hid- or editorials from other papers that are easily available online for free elsewhere. Of course, there were the one or two “investigative reports” that they also hid from the general public- but most of these are still namby-pamby articles lacking any real ball busting. Still- they are an improvement from the old, pre- Julia Wallace days when nothing ever scratched the surface.

So today, I had to pony up- $9.99 for an iTunes subscription. I now have 2 iPad apps- the pathetically titled “News App” and “Today’s Paper”- both with almost the same icon- and a big “D” for the logo. Hardly the same as “ABC News” or “BBC News” or “USA TODAY”- are they so ashamed that they don’t call it Dayton Daily News, or DDN- or Dayton Daily?

I’m not able to get into the “News App” which is essentially the old app- without the “replica” edition. The “Today’s Paper” is an onscreen replica and is a huge improvement. It shows you a full page or spread at a time- and you see all the ads that the few remaining advertisers are running. The ads are still static- some low rez, and I haven’t seen one have a link- or any interaction. When you see an article you want to read- tap once and it centers on screen with the borders darkened. Tap again- and it shows up as a digital version which you can resize the type with for ADA compliance- big improvement. It’s also this article that can be shared- but instead of sending the entire text like it used to- it just sends a link. The linked article doesn’t seem to be behind a paywall (yet) but it does show that they still don’t understand digital workflows- words that were broken with hyphenation in the print edition- are showing up as hyphenated in the linked article – whoops.

Ostensibly, you could scroll through the paper- article by article in the “digital” version- skipping most of the ads, and reading it with larger type, but, I still like to look at the full printed page to be able to scan what I want to read faster. The best part of this new replica is that it doesn’t require you to click to download each section- you can continue paging through, as if they aren’t separate. I may start looking at sports and life and classifieds again- they just weren’t worth the wait in the old version.

Things that are sorely missing in the new edition- clickable links still aren’t clickable in the app. You also can’t highlight and copy text- which makes further research a pain. The whole concept of “digital” is that it’s an “ENHANCED” edition with “more” usability- things like links- and a dictionary have been included in the NYT edition from the start.

The other thing that’s totally missing is why it’s not really worth the $9.99 a month- for a “community newspaper” which is the only thing that the Dayton Daily can really aspire to- community is totally missing. Where are the comments, the forums, the ability to ask questions of the writers? Now that you have our credit card- and a verified ID- commenting systems have to be available and workable. Newspapers like the Las Vegas Sun take the effort to call each and every commenter to verify who they are before allowing posts- and build a viable, interesting community online.

I could explain fully why including comments isn’t only essential, it’s the key to profitability- but, the people at Cox publishing still haven’t figured it out. Hint- you can come to my seminar and spend a full day learning how all this can and should work, and it will only cost you $139.

I’m not sure why the two apps- unless one is only the “free content”- and one the paid? I can’t seem to log in to the free one even though I’m now a subscriber, and the only reason to do it is the “Today’s Paper” replica app doesn’t seem to allow me to see the “breaking” or “New” news which will show up in the next two days in the print/replica edition.

The saddest part, is that the paper hasn’t done anything to take advantage of being able to also include a longer version of every story- with more information with a simple click from the print version. The limitations of the dead tree edition still rule their view of presenting news- at least 5 years after those constraints were lifted.

How many of you have bit the bullet and subscribed to the digital edition? How many are thinking of discontinuing the print edition to just read it on a tablet, now that the functionality is improved? How many just stopped reading altogether? Comments?

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