To be continued: News Virginian cuts online news
As daily newspapers' sales plummet nationwide, editors and publishers are employing myriad strategies to stay afloat as readers increasingly turn to the Internet for their news. Now, the Waynesboro News Virginian is testing a new strategy to drive readers from its free website back to buying the hard copy.
On Monday, April 27, the News Virginian posted a story about a parent's complaint about lewd music at a middle school dance on its website, corresponding with the same article which appeared in its print edition. However, after the fourth paragraph on the web version of the story, readers find a message that informs them that the text they're reading is only "an excerpt"and instructs them to "pick up The News Virginian today at an area newsstand to get the full story."
"It's an experiment," says News Virginian editor Lee Wolverton. "We're toying with it and trying it on a few stories to see if it will drive sales."
However, Wolverton says that online readers feeling deprived will still be able to get the whole story online, just not right away.
"We're embargoing the rest of certain stories for a day," says Wolverton. "Hopefully it will get more people to buy it off the newsstand."
The News Virginian and the Charlottesville Daily Progress are both owned by Richmond-based Media General. The company has seen its stock prices drop by 91 percent in the last seven months, leading to layoffs at several Media General publications, including the Daily Progress. Still, Daily Progress managing editor McGregor McCance says the News Virginian's strategy is not a company-wide initiative and that the DP's online readers won't see a change like this–- yet.
"I think it's pretty cool," says McCance. "I hope it works for them, and if it does, maybe we'll try it."
Already, local blogger and media commentator Waldo Jaquith has given the move his thumbs-up.
"It’s actually a sensible strategy," writes Jaquith on his cvillenews.com blog, "because it drives readers to where the advertising (and copy-sales) dollars are. This might have been a foolish move a few years ago, but now newspapers are in such dire financial straits that it seems well worth a try."
–updated April 28 at 10:11am