Local TV

KPNX Puts Price Tag on Web Content

Gannett banking on Phoenix news consumers feeding the meter, while KPHO clamors for new users 9/10/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern

The well-regarded newscasts
on KPNX Phoenix will, of course,
remain free to viewers. The station’s
Web content, however, is going in a different
direction. On Sept. 10, the joint KPNX Arizona
website, AZCentral.com
the one market within Gannett where TV
and newspaper properties share a building
and website—flipped the switch on a paid
content model, and the competition is making
sure Phoenix residents are aware of what’s
free and what costs money in the area.

Meredith’s KPHO, a CBS affiliate, rolled out
uniquely direct promos spotlighting KPNX’s
online paid model. Ed Munson, KPHO VP and
general manager, does not apologize. “We have
an opportunity we never had before,” he says.
“There’s going to be a lot of folks in play.”

Fed by 300 local journalists filing for both
print and broadcast, AZCentral.com is a giant
in DMA No. 13, averaging 5.9 million unique
visitors and 75.6 million page views per
month, according to Omniture. Moreover,
AZCentral.com reached 30% of the market’s
Internet-using adults in July—tops in Phoenix.
KPHO’s CBS5AZ.com is fifth, with 6%.

Starting this week, users get 20 AZCentral.com stories per month for free. An all-digital
pass costs $10 a month, while digital and
newspaper delivery is $26.50.

The move is part of a larger Gannett strategy
to get revenue from digital content. John Misner,
COO of Republic Media (as Gannett’s joint
Phoenix outfit is known) and GM at the NBC
affiliate, is bullish on the model. “I like to think
our content has lots of value,” Misner says. “I
know the unique work our journalists do.”

Notably, management can turn off the meter
for major breaking news and issues of public
safety—say, a wildfire or mass shooting. “We do
have to balance our role as journalists with the
need to run good business models,” Misner says.

KPHO and KPNX, along with Belo’s KTVK,
share a helicopter. But that alliance did not prevent
KPHO from calling out KPNX in its promos.
“Guess I’ll have to get my news somewhere else,”
goes one, while another reminds the community
that CBS5AZ.com remains free.

Munson acknowledges that the plugs are
likely “a gnat buzzing around their head,” but
he believes Gannett’s motives are not entirely
altruistic. “I get what they’re doing,” Munson
says. “But where I disconnect is that it’s not
about saving journalism. This is about money.”

Misner took the tweaks in stride. “It’s not
a surprise to see a competitive response,” he
says. “It’s kind of fun to watch.”

Calls and emails came into the Republic Media
building prior to the new model’s debut, many
of which Misner handled personally. After explaining
the company’s position, he says most
callers seemed to understand, though subscription
figures in the coming weeks will shed
more light on the initiative’s success.

Arizona residents possess a unique independent
streak, notes Munson, evidenced by the
state’s liberal gun laws. “They don’t like being
told what to do,” he says. “I wonder if Gannett
has underestimated their independence.”

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