My First Day with the New Online Chron

I haven’t subscribed to the Chronicle since 2008, after they made a number of editorial decisions I vehemently disagreed with as a reader. I didn’t stop reading, though (this was right when the Ed Jew case was in court!); I just quit subscribing. I stopped reading all Chron articles except for hilarious local politics ones (which I got online), and regretted deeply not being able to read the comics, but that was pretty much it.

Previously: The SF Chronicle Is Now Behind A Paywall

I feel bad, though! I want to support local journalism, and I understand that part of the reason why the quality of the Chron has struggled so badly recently is that their financial problems outstripped their ambition. You cut budgets, work quality suffers — I get that. So here I am, and you can call me a sucker: I just signed up for the $12/month SF Chronicle digital subscription, with the hard copy Sunday edition home-delivered. Walk with me as I experience my first few days as a digital subscriber!

Sunday, March 25, 2013

I’m signing up! Clicky-clicky-click! In signing up, I find it sort of unsettling how obviously the Chron is trying to upsell these: the thing where you list the cheaper subscription option with a monthly rate ($12/month) against the pricier paper subscription option with a weekly one ($5/week) is irritating in the same way that going to Walgreens and having to divide out the number of tampons in the box by the cost of the coupon is. I know they need the money, but please, that’s just insulting.

After getting lost in the signup process, I finally end up at the actual site, and…. I think I’ve been had. I already saw all these articles in my RSS feed today! This has neither the kicky online graphics appeal of SFGate.com, nor the reassuring visual solidity of the paper. It looks basically like someone took all the turquoise off SFGate.com. There isn’t a dedicated comics page, there’s no tables in the sports section — basically, all the paper-only features are missing, and the fun web appeal of the Gate is gone too. And I can read all the if-it-bleeds-it-leads pieces on the Gate for free still! And the national section is all AP stories! What did I pay for again?

I was hoping the Chron would use this as an opportunity to re-invest in its content. I’d be willing to pay $12/month for good and interesting journalism — on anything! Better business coverage? Thoughtful pieces on SF sports? Exposes of corruption in local politics? Even retreads of Valencia Street coverage would be fine! But if it’s just going to be more of the same, I don’t know how willing I am to subscribe to a paper that doesn’t give me very much original to read. $12 for reformatted AP articles and Matier and Ross? I don’t know, guys.

Tomorrow! I’ll try using the digital Chron as my primary news source! This should be terrible. (please, no one at City Hall do anything hilarious tomorrow.)

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  • withak30

    I don’t think they were ever planning on selling a better product for $12/month, just taking their regular stuff and making it so that you can only see the entire article if you pay.

  • withak30

    I don’t think they were ever planning on selling a better product for $12/month, just taking their regular stuff and making it so that you can only see the entire article if you pay.

  • Wonder if they are going to use their decades-old automatic re-subscribe override for those who decide it wasn’t worth it.

  • Wonder if they are going to use their decades-old automatic re-subscribe override for those who decide it wasn’t worth it.

  • xoconostle

    A lesson in how not to roll out a pay site. There are no substantial attractors, the layout was poorly conceptualized and is a bit of an eyesore, and the subscription options are initially confusing. I don’t mind paying to subscribe to the New York Times because the content there is superior on a number of levels, but what Hearst/Bushee/Vega/Adkins have done to the Chronicle has left it in a shambles. The longtime readership has rightly lost faith and become cynical. I just don’t see this succeeding.

  • xoconostle

    A lesson in how not to roll out a pay site. There are no substantial attractors, the layout was poorly conceptualized and is a bit of an eyesore, and the subscription options are initially confusing. I don’t mind paying to subscribe to the New York Times because the content there is superior on a number of levels, but what Hearst/Bushee/Vega/Adkins have done to the Chronicle has left it in a shambles. The longtime readership has rightly lost faith and become cynical. I just don’t see this succeeding.

  • David C.

    Print has bled red ink for a long time now. It’s about time to reverse the trend by investing in good journalism and serious I.T. power. The Chronicle is probably the best-positioned daily newspaper in the country to help “newspapers” (quality for-profit sources for news and information) survive. Pay walls might be part of the solution. But before I shell out for online content, I want a promise. I want some type of assurance that Hearst will invest in my community and dedicate a good chunk of the new revenue stream toward developing better content. That means hiring more journalists, editors and techies. Be bold. It’s a big ask, but your most valuable asset — your goodwill — is at stake.

    • Marcy Fleming

      What are you smoking ? The Chron has always been a terrible rag and businesses should not ‘invest’ in the community, a Communist concept, but make money by offering a decent product.

  • David C.

    Print has bled red ink for a long time now. It’s about time to reverse the trend by investing in good journalism and serious I.T. power. The Chronicle is probably the best-positioned daily newspaper in the country to help “newspapers” (quality for-profit sources for news and information) survive. Pay walls might be part of the solution. But before I shell out for online content, I want a promise. I want some type of assurance that Hearst will invest in my community and dedicate a good chunk of the new revenue stream toward developing better content. That means hiring more journalists, editors and techies. Be bold. It’s a big ask, but your most valuable asset — your goodwill — is at stake.

    • Marcy Fleming

      What are you smoking ? The Chron has always been a terrible rag and businesses should not ‘invest’ in the community, a Communist concept, but make money by offering a decent product.