RICHMOND, Va. — An internal strategy to boost revenue within the Richmond Times Dispatch (RTD) backfired this week when the company expanded their website’s paywall to include their own staff, only for the staff to protest the act and refuse to pay.
The celebrated local newspaper has long been infamous for instituting a paywall that requires readers to pay for a subscription after reading a few articles. According to Editor In Chief Samuel Barton, the decision to expand the subscription to their own writers was simply a matter of dollars and cents.
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“We need the money,” Burton answered when asked about the move in a recent interview. “Our sponsored content from the Virginia Christian Alliance isn’t doing so well, Facebook is killing our organic reach, and our big bitcoin investment didn’t quite give us the returns we wanted.”
He went on to add that clickable stories that generate web traffic are on the decline, causing the paper to re-run pieces on the same topics.
“We’re running out of material that gets a lot of attention. We can only cover the monuments but so much, unless they finally decide to tear down the damn things.”
RTD staff, ranging from editors to photographers, have been vocal about their opposition to the new policy, with many refusing to read the online paper if payments are required.
“Why should I pay for it? I wrote the damn thing,” Senior Editor Alessa Holmes stated, stressing the amount of effort she put in for a particular story should easily disqualify her from having to pay for content.
“I had to sit in a city council meeting that lasted nine hours for a single story, and now they want me to create an account for it. Unbelievable.”
Jennifer Beasley, a staff writer, mentioned that all members of the editorial team were offered ‘employee discounts’ on select articles, but that the reality of the discount was ultimately too good to be true.
“They said they’d give us a special rate, like one free article a week. It seemed like a nice gesture, but when we found out it was just for reviews for new chain restaurants opening in Short Pump, we just started reading Style instead.”
Barton insists that despite the newspaper facing challenges in the ever-evolving digital world, he and his team will always adapt and continue to maintain journalistic integrity.
“We could always run an op-ed about how to prevent sexual assault, those seem to get a lot of hits,” he added.
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