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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

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 3 hours ago - Technology

A dark view of the future of autonomous weapons

A still from the video "If Human: Kill ( )." Image: Future of Life Institute

A new short film warns of the coming risks posed by the development and proliferation of lethal autonomous weapons.

Why it matters: Drones with the ability to autonomously target and kill without the assistance of a human operator are reportedly already being used on battlefields, and time is running out to craft a global ban of what could be a destabilizing and terrifying new class of weapon.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine — Pfizer could have vaccine data for children under five by end of 2021, CEO says.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Prosecutors charge parents of Michigan school shooting suspect

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The parents of a 15-year-old accused of killing four students and wounding seven other people at a Michigan high school have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, according to court documents.

The latest: Lawyers for James and Jennifer Crumbley told the Detroit News they are "returning to the area to be arraigned," after law enforcement officials announced a search for the Crumbleys had been initiated.