Top 5 things Recordnet needs to do to be worth $5 a month

Well, there’s no stopping it now. The Record has officially begun the slow death march towards an online pay wall. This survey is just the figurative dipping of the toe into the water, but it does give us some hints as to what they actually plan to do.

The big news? $5 a month seems to be preliminary price they’re trying to gauge reaction on. Which doesn’t sound like a lot until you realize you’re paying to read Lori Gilbert, Tony Sauro, and Bob Highfill and not, you know, people who write about interesting things.

It is encouraging to see in one of their questions that they anticipate adding more features to justify the $5. Unfortunately I can’t see what they could add on that would be worth it, especially to a large enough audience to make money.

We hope no one is taking this as us saying the Record isn’t worth $5 a month. We’ve gone on record as saying we’ll sign up just for David Siders (and for Christian Burkin if he ever gets around to updating his blog again), but we’re the hardcores. We kind of doubt people will be lining up to pay for City Council meeting live blogs and videos of speed bumps.

But we’ve been through this song and dance when the news all Murdoch owned sites were going pay. So, in an effort to combat the notion that blogs are all negative and not solution oriented, here’s our…

Top 5 things Recordnet needs to do to be worth $5 a month

1. Podcasts

The consumer base for a pay Recordnet is going to be a bunch of internet nerds anyway, why not cater to them? The sports section had/has a podcast featuring Jagdip Dillon and Marty Greenstein that was pretty funny at times, yet The Record hasn’t really expanded beyond that. 209Vibe had a podcast, but we all know what happened to that place. But if you’re going to charge people, you have to five them something more than a bunch of stories that you could read by asking “Are you done with that?” at a Denny’s. Podcasting is a relatively easy, cheap, and simple way to provide more analysis on local events.

Hell, you could even just slap together a quick recap of the days stories and throw it up there for the people who don’t have enough time in the morning to click through Recordnet’s cumbersome interface. Instead, give them one link to click and next thing you know their on their commute listening to the nasally tones of Ian Hill reading about whatever crazy shenanigans Tony Amato’s gotten himself into this time.

Sure, you’re missing out on the individual pageviews (and, by extension, ad views) of that person clicking every story, but that’s assuming they ever get around to it. I can’t tell you the number of marginally interesting stories that peaked my interest in the morning that I promise I’ll read later only to completely forget about them by the time I key hits the ignition. Plus, we’re about to address the ad/pageview thing right now.

2. Offer an ad-free Recordnet for paid subscribers

The biggest issue we have with the paywall thing is that a straight, across the board paywall makes absolutely no sense. Even if The Record doesn’t want to admit it, there are plenty of other outlets to get free local news. Making people pay for the Record’s local news is basically like taking a giant steak throwing it into and open space and saying “Hey, Tracy Press, Manteca Bulletin, Lodi News-Sentinel here’s a giant piece of marketshare. Who wants it!?” And guess what? They all want it! Shit, they all need it. We’re pretty sure the Tracy Press is now a mall cart manned by Jennifer Wadsworth and a sock puppet.

And while that might not be a bad idea to help kickstart local journalism in general, it spells doom for The Record. If something free turns pay people will just move on to the next free thing. If you don’t believe me, just ask Napster and that Facebook group about Facebook charging for membership. It just doesn’t work out.

That’s why we think the Record should just have two different sites. One that’s ad-supported and very bare bones that just reprints the stories from the Record. And then they could have the paysite that’s robust with blogs, podcasts, forums, the whole shebang and have it completely ad-free.

This may sound crazy but the key is to have just a ludicrous amount of ads on the free site. We’re talking porn site bad. Have the flashing ads telling the reader they “won” $5,000. Throw up hijack ads for every damn story. And pop-ups, loads and loads of pop-ups. Ones that plays sound and have no stop button. Make the free site so God damn annoying that users will think “You know, I’d pay $5 a month to get rid of all this bullshit”.

Of course you’d also have to tease how awesome all the paid content is, maybe post a 5-minute snip of a particularly entertaining podcast. Tease added analysis in the blogs. They could even post stories on the pay site earlier than they do the free site. Deadline’s at 9 or so, why not post the stories ready for print then? Make people feel like they’re missing out on something if they don’t pay! You might even be able to get $10 out of them with this idea.

3. Online Exclusive Content

We know, we know, they already do this. But so far it’s been limited to entertainment stories (which kind of begs the question “Why didn’t they just keep the 209Vibe website going with online content?”), we want to expand this to everything. We’re not talking about anything ground breaking or exciting, just stories that cater to the online audience. If the paper is going to have a bunch of stories about how old people are still useful and remember things, have the online exclusive stories be about drinking, classes at Delta/UOP, cat massages (beat that for adorableness myRecord!), or whatever the kids are into these days (Jonas Brothers?).

Everybody already pretty much agrees that niche coverage is the future, why not have two niches? Because one of them is being ignored, and we don’t need to tell you which one it is.

4. Customizable content

One of the more frustrating things about Recordnet is it’s unbending layout. Like the paper version, what the Record wants featured prominently gets featured prominently. Most of the time it’s not the shit I want to read. Most of the time it’s stories like that completely uninteresting (to me at least) story about people cleaning a park. That doesn’t make it a bad story, it’s just that soft feature human interest stories bore the shit out of me. They’re filler. Why can’t I have a streamlined Record homepage that only presents stories that I would like based on the settings I give them? Have a ratings system at the bottom of each story (kind of like what we have) that can log my story preferences and highlight the ones that my results show I would like. I don’t care about what goes on in Galt, give me an option to ignore every story emanating from that festering shithole. Give me options dammit! Lord knows we don’t have many now.

5. T-Shirts

Because we couldn’t think of a 5th thing, we think an “I gave the Record $5 a month and all I got was this stupid t-shirt” shirt would be awesome. Or just toss us some old 209Vibe shirts because they’re retro and ironic and all the hipsters would love them.


~ by Slick Diaz on August 18, 2009.

One Response to “Top 5 things Recordnet needs to do to be worth $5 a month”

  1. […] Reclaiming the title Share and Enjoy: […]

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