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Star Tribune protects Access Vikings data better than A.P. protects the football

Peter Kafka, who writes for the All Things Digital blog, takes note of Long Island-based Newsday's pathetic paywall numbers — a mere 35 subscribers in three months — and wonders how the Star Tribune's "Access Vikings" is doing:

I would be interested, though, in learning how the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune did with “Access Vikings Premium,” a $20-a-year pay wall it put up around most stories about the home team last season.

I could see the thinking behind this one, which showed up around the same time Brett Favre joined the team. And this was the year to try it, since the Vikings had a great season until they blew the NFC Conference game, as is their wont.

But in my personal one-man focus group, the pay wall only served to keep me from visiting StarTribune.com at all. I see now that the paper seems to have dropped the wall around content it used to ask me to pay for, so perhaps I wasn’t the only one. I’ve asked the paper for more details.

Ah, Peter, I'm interested too, which is why I've pressed the Strib for data a couple of times this season, including after Jason DeRusha's paywall-focused interview with publisher Mike Klingensmith last week.

No dice, says Strib spokesman Ben Taylor, holding onto the goods in a way Brad Childress can only envy. "I understand your curiosity — and that of all our competitors," Taylor said Thursday. "But it’s proprietary. We may talk about it at some point."

I know this makes it look like the Strib has bad news to hide — they have recently been a leader in digital disclosure. I'm not sure what competitors would do if the numbers proved awful, or fabulous. But for now, we just don't know how well the Purple Paywall floats 425 Portland's boat.

One thing's for sure: The unpaywalled startribune.com does well when the Vikings do well ... or spectacularly tragically. On Monday, the site hit 4.9 million page views, the fourth-highest total ever — despite the thoroughly depressing Vikings loss. That means three of the four top days in site history are Purple-tinged; the only higher totals came during two days of Favre Mania this summer, and the day after Barack Obama was elected president.

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Comments (11)

Wondering about pay walls? Make your site or your blog a pay wall and you'll have your answer.

Though it isn't scientific, I can tell you that I don't know a single person who has paid for "Access Vikings". Not one.

Seems like, if it had any kind of traction, we'd all be able to name somebody -- like the most rabid Vikings fan we know -- who has ponied up.

Question: Can those who subscribe to the actual paper version of the StarTrib access the material behind the pay wall? I can see an argument for seeking from revenue from folks who aren't subscribers. But it seems that those who are supporting the paper with subscriptions should be able to have full access to the content online.

Just wondering.

Todd - there's currently a technological problem: most papers' circ systems (often on ooooold computers) don't talk to their online Content Management Systems.

That's one reason the New York Times is taking a year to integrate their subscriber base and their metered paywall. I strongly suspect the Strib has these issues, too, so they keep thing separate. Plus they theoretically make a bit more money.

No Todd, print subscribers don't get access to AVP (Access Vikings Premium or Aliens v. Predator, whichever you prefer ;).

I actually wonder if the Strib should become more aggressive about charging for their content. I don't fault print media for trying to make money. In fact, I have trouble understanding all the vitriol some people express when they're asked to pay for all the free content they've been getting. Consumers get upset about paying because they're getting mixed messages from print media, but if all news websites when to a pay model tomorrow, I'd be willing to bet there would be a lot of paying customers. So why stop with AVP? Charge for it all, that's what I say.

I've hit many a wall in my day and AVP is one of them. I enjoy a Strib sports column over coffe in the den, but when AVP goes up to make that key block on me, I calcuate the value faster than Brad Childress can organize a timeout and I'm gone. Lately, I have clicked to some juicy links fully expecting to get stuffed for a loss, only to be allowed in. What the...? Strib publishers were afraid of already angry Vikes sufferers going COMPLETELY loony over being denied? They were afraid it might work too well? Like a dangerous pass over the middle, AVP was worth a shot, but appears to have backfired. I could be wrong, but I doubt it.

To the paper's credit, they obviously got the meganormous page view stats they wanted, and so maybe decided to leave well enough alone.

I haven't tried to access the "Access Vikings" section. My question is more philosophical. I often have to get running in the morning before I can read the paper...if I want to take a look at an article at work but can't, (but have already paid for that article) that would be kind of frustrating.

It seems that those of us who have made the choice to continue to subscribe, and who are paying...in a sense are supporting the Strib (I get that we're not talking about MPR here) would be allowed access to the content in both its forms.

Todd, I brought up that issue to Mike (I'm a Strib subscriber, and if I ran the joint I would focus on providing online bonuses to print subscribers: printable coupons, access to data sets, customizable home pages, etc. -- rather than trying to get online only customers to pay.)

Anyway, he said that he was interested as first priority of business in taking care of current paying customers, and he liked how the NYT let the print subscribers have free unlimited access to NYTimes.com

i was never a big fan of the strib site in the first place. too slow. too clunky. stories chopped up into too many pieces and hard to print. then came the viking paywall. that stopped me dead in my tracks, and i gave up on the site completely. the pioneer press fills some of the gaps. as does minnpost. maybe i don't know what i'm missing by staying away from the strib, but i don't miss it.

It is good to finally learn how Newsday's new (last year) and pay wall are faring. The site is one of the worst redesigns I have ever seen. There is nothing there to draw you in at all. Why pay for no content? Makes me wonder if the payees for that site are merely employees who have to test it.