Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mourning Media: Welcome to the New Pando Paywall

Earlier this week I clicked over to the Pando site to discover that the graphics that I'd become familiar with were gone. The site had gone through a redesign. Whenever a site that you visit frequently goes through a redesign, you have to step back and take some time to digest it. It's easy to get caught up in the changes and respond negatively, but the designer in me knows that it's better to understand the framework before you lash out about disrupting the familiar. But when I popped into my first read, I quickly came across this message below the opening paragraph or so.
Want to read the whole article?
Pando members get full access to every article published on Pando, including our full archive. You’ll also get free access to Pando Monthly events, each event’s live video stream and our full video archive. 
A quick search through the front page brought me to Welcome to a new Pando, a post from Sarah and Paul regarding the changes to the site and the business model. Going forward, they will operate Pando on a subscription basis. You can read their post to see their breakdown of the strategy and the business decision.

When it comes to operating a modern media business, the landscape is harsh and lined with the remains of the many who have fallen over time. In that kind of environment, it's a little difficult to criticize business decisions made in an effort to adapt to the times -- it's not like there is an obvious winning strategy. That being said, for me, this marks the end of my regular visits to the site.

I understand the argument behind the subscription and paywall model, but the reality is that I'm not a subscriber. Ten bucks a month isn't a huge expense, but the mere element of transaction crosses a threshold that a deeper part of me can't buy into. It's like Gandalf standing at the bridge of my wallet, "you shall not pass."

I like the content on the Pando site. They do good work. I've bought tickets and been to several Pando Monthly events -- even gone through the effort to travel to the city on a weeknight for them. But for all of the ones that I've been to, there have probably been two or three times that many that I haven't been to. Events that didn't connect with me or where the effort to get to the city seemed greater than the value of attending the event. Buried in that equation is probably a greater multiplier on the site content. I like some, but they majority doesn't cross that pay/cost threshold. It's not an uncommon problem. Fundamentally, it's the problem facing media and content in this era. 

Personally, I like the model that Talking Points Memo uses. They have a subscription basis for certain premium content along with discussion and comments. At the same time, they publish a certain amount of basic content that tends to cover news and other issues. There is value in visiting the Talking Points Memo site, even if you are not a subscriber. And, although I am not a subscriber, there is something in my brain that connects with the framework of the relationship -- being a subscriber gets you to a deeper, more connected relationship.

As I say, I can't fault the team at Pando, but I will mourn their passing from my regularly visited sites. In this case, I don't find myself moving away with the same sense of frustration that I had when Techcrunch began it's collapse. In that case, the changing AOL-inspired editorial voice, the erosion of talent, and ultimately the terrible 8-bit site redesign made the site virtually unreadable for me. In that same way, call me old school, but I also liked the old PandoDaily. This was the site design that featured the Pando Ticker on the side, providing curated links and news that seemed interesting but not worthy of repackaging, and a central section of original, significant content.

Perhaps it's just me, but I think news has a different voice than magazine. Part of that may reside in that subscription and price barrier. Consider, it's one thing to say, "dude, there's some crazy stuff happening and here's my interpretation of it." It's entirely something else when you're saying, "dude, give me a dollar and I'll tell you about some crazy stuff and what I think about it." With the Talking Points Memo subscription, it feels more like an additional layer, frosting, or investing into a deeper research arm of their business. With Pando, I'm sure that their magazine style content will be great, but I will miss their voice in news coverage.

No comments: