Paywall Decisions

Last year, after 50+ years as a subscriber, I stopped taking the Indianapolis Star. My reasons were the same as those of the large numbers of other people who have decided to forgo the morning ritual–there is very little “there” there anymore.

The Star and other daily newspapers are in a death spiral, partially due to circumstances beyond their control, and partly due to really poor decisions about how to cope with those circumstances. By now, we can all recite the litany of change: the Internet brought other news sources to our fingertips, mostly for free; Craig’s List cost newspapers a billion dollars a year in classified advertising revenue.  The existing business model simply disappeared.

Meanwhile, big chains like Gannett had gobbled up the dailies, paying inflated prices with borrowed money. Between the competitive changes and the massive debt, bottom lines suffered. So the new owners did what businesspeople do in such situations–they cut employees. Newsrooms have been decimated over the past decade. And the result was–duh!–less news. And with less news came less reason to buy the paper in the first place.

I stopped subscribing when I realized I could read the paper in less than five minutes. I do scan the (very poorly designed and proofed) website from time to time, in case there is actually local news reported. I don’t miss the diet tips, the pictures of someone’s kitchen, or the celebrity “news” and similar items reprinted verbatim from national sources. Such material is widely available. What I keep hoping I’ll find is actual reporting about Indianapolis and Indiana–especially informed reporting about state and local government. There hasn’t been much of that, unfortunately–and we are seeing what happens when a community loses its “watchdog.”

The Star is now instituting a paywall. The question is whether there is enough content left to merit a 12./month charge. At my house, we willingly pay for the New York Times, because the content justifies the charge. We’ve decided to see if the electronic version of the sad remnants of what used to be a real newspaper is worth even twelve bucks a month.

Stay tuned….


  1. If you don’t mind me giving a shout out, Ruth Holladay’s blog does a great job of covering the ins and outs of the Star’s slow descent into madness.

  2. Yes, I’d walk to my newspaper box and read it completely on the walk back to the house. An exaggeration perhaps, but I literally would finish the paper in 5 minutes. I have gotten a daily newspaper all my life, but I finally cut back to two days – Thursday and Sunday. Even that I find is a waste. At least Sunday’s paper used to have a lot of news in it…no more.

    The Indy Star leadership refuses to be a watchdog on local politics. They simply refuse to cover things that will put local powerbrokers in a bad light. They do a better job with certain state scandals, but most people read the Star because they want local coverage. So many times I see big stories made into “Behind Closed Doors” articles. That recent tiff over the TIFs should have been a big story, not an item in BCD.

    I use the Broad Ripple Parking garage as an example. We pay to build it and it is simply given away to Keystone Construction,a major contributor to the Mayor. We taxpayers don’t make a dime off it, the parking or commercial rents. When has the Star ever covered that or editorialized against it? They don’t want to step on powerful local toes.

    The sad thing is the new publisher and editor-in-chief flat-out refuse to acknowledge any problems with the current content in the Star.

  3. I agree about the content. However, a concern I have is without The Star there would be no obituaries. Many times this is how we learn of the passing of a friend.

  4. I cancelled the Star when their 6 month ‘4 bucks a month’ charge ended and it changed to over 9 bucks a month. I added up what it would cost me to go to the drug store twice a week to buy the paper and it was cheaper to do that than it was to have it delivered to my door. After I cancelled, they contacted me over and over. While on vacation there were 11 missed calls from the Star! I called them up and asked them to stop it! They said they used the automated system to call my number. They left me alone after that. Aggghhhh!

  5. My home delivery Star service just jumped from $40 for two months to $25.59 per month. I’m afraid I will have to cancel; a 25+% jump is too much for what they offer. I thought it was only me and my lack of awareness that found the paper boring; also it would be cheaper to subscribe to TV Guide and buy a crossword puzzle book. By the way; are you aware the Star began charging 25 cents weekly for the TV Week listings – many of which are incorrect. I also thought it was me that found the Star leaning toward the GOP but the front page this morning proves I was right. And that long article by Schneider, beginning on the front page, regarding the DNC stand on gays read as if that is the primary basis for their presidential campaign. The story about the police officer in the shootout was interesting and worthwhile but hardly news to replace the DNC information which was on page 7 and briefer than Schneider’s article. Being disabled, I request my paper be delivered on my porch; simple request and the porch is convenient to find, also lit all night. I finally began sending a complaint form every time they missed my porch and I had to stumble down steps and trip over plants in my flower bed to get the paper. Guess I will ignore next month’s bill and save myself af few Social Security dollars.

  6. Unfortunately, after canceling the Star. My cost of lighting
    the Bar-B-Que increased somewhat. The difference between paper fuel and liquid fuel etc.

  7. Default to incumbent power, political correctness, self-preservation, and avoidance of the slightest whisper of racism seems to have been the local mantra for awhile.

    I think their editorial pages have been pretty ideological equitable lately. I’d settle for insertion of the liberal Gannett national coverage if they’d put their resources into balanced local coverage. I perceived it a bit better with Ryan’s departure, but with no outrage on behalf of the public on the recent TIF shenanigans after a supposed adjourned City Council meeting….

  8. Bummer. My folks still live in/near Indy, and I always go to the Star’s site if there’s breaking Indiana news (because guess what, the SF Chronicle scarcely even reports on the 500, never mind anything else that happens in the “flyover states.”)

  9. Dave Crutchfield :
    avoidance of the slightest whisper of racism seems to have been the local mantra for awhile.

    Yeah, it’s really terrible when media decide that they shouldn’t dabble in racism.

  10. Not as terrible as when your downtown had a graduation rate that was rated worst in the country at one point by the the USA Today weekend insert, and your local paper (except for Matt Tully Manual coverage), basically looked the other way.

    I don’t know how it ultimately shakes-out, but if the state and Tony Bennett are doing a lousy job with takeover of some schools, they’ve got The Economist fooled because they’re giving us positive national press about it.

Comments are closed.