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The offices of the Sacramento Bee, a McClatchy newspaper. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

McClatchy will put its paywall back up around some coronavirus news as it aims to balance its duty keep people informed with its need to bolster subscriptions, executives tell Axios.

Why it matters: The company is trying to be strategic about how much they allow to be free. While it's important that some information remains free, like breaking news that could impact the health and safety of their readers, they don't want that free information to cannibalize a surge in subscription interest.

  • "With a lower paywall we're missing opportunities to convert drive-by readers into subscribers," says McClatchy's Vice President of News Kristin Roberts.
  • As the story begins its slow shift from breaking news and utility journalism, Roberts says McClatchy's paywall strategy will change.
  • Decisions over which articles to put in front of the paywall will be made locally by editors at each of its 30 local publications nationwide.

By the numbers: In a memo to staff, Roberts says that while subscriptions are rising, "the money we get every time someone reads or watches an individual story (“programmatic” revenue) is declining, rapidly -- that per-view rate of revenue has dropped more than 15% in a single week."

  • In total, the company has gained 10,200 new subscriptions in March, even with the paywall down. And subscriber pageviews are up 46% in March.
  • "Since our coronavirus coverage began, 13% of views were by people who would have been stopped by the paywall if it had been up. If we converted even a tiny fraction of those people, we would have generated more in subscription revenue than we are earning on the per-pageview (“programmatic”) revenue."

Be smart: McClatchy's news division has experienced consolidation over the past few years, and has been very disciplined about operating expenses. For now, the news division seems stable despite the crises unfolding around it within the news industry and despite the company's recent history filing for bankruptcy.

  • "So much has been done up to this point to set ourselves up to be in a place to not topple over when the first wind blows," says Roberts.
  • Roberts argues that the company's focus on balancing its income between audience (subscriptions) and advertising has been critical in preparing for this moment.

Go deeper

Texas abortion law remains in effect after appeals court ruling

Pro- and anti-abortion protesters outside the Supreme Court as arguments begin about the Texas abortion law on Capitol Hill in November. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A U.S. appeals court transferred a challenge to Texas' law banning most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy to the state supreme court in a 2-1 vote on Monday evening.

Why it matters: The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision means the country's most restrictive abortion law can remain in place for the time being.

2 hours ago - World

At least 2 dead after Tonga volcano eruption and tsunami

A satellite image of the explosive eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano on Saturday. Photo: UNICEF/NOAA

At least two people are confirmed to have died in Tonga following the undersea volcanic eruption that sent tsunami waves toward the island nation and across the Pacific over the weekend, officials said Monday.

The big picture: Officials reported major damage along the western coast of the main island of Tongatapu, where the capital, Nuku'alofa, was covered in ash and dust, including on the runway of the airport. A New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson told Axios over the phone that two people had been confirmed to have died in the disaster.

Airlines call for Biden admin's "immediate intervention" in 5G deployment

Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The CEOs of leading U.S. air cargo and passenger carriers on Monday warned the Biden administration there could be "catastrophic disruption" after AT&T and Verizon deploy a new 5G service this week.

Driving the news: They said in a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and other top federal officials ahead of the C-Band 5G service's deployment Wednesday that "the nation's commerce will grind to a halt" and "could potentially strand tens of thousands of Americans overseas."