Missourian still unsure of how to remove paywall for students

Continued discussions begin next week.
Mikala Compton / Graphic Designer

The Columbia Missourian paywall has been disputed since its inception.

In September 2012, the newspaper adopted a “time-meter pay model,” in which anyone can access online content for the first 24 hours. Afterward, one must be a subscriber to the Missourian to access information.

The paywall system currently has 823 digital subscribers, 648 of whom pay a fee for access. The additional 175 are Missourian employees who have free subscriptions.

The Missourian makes an estimated $40,000 per year from the paywall, which is 2.5 percent of the Missourian’s $1.6 million 2012-13 expenditures, according to most recent data provided to The Maneater.

From August 2012 until February 2013, the Missouri Students Association paid $11,500 to the Missourian to provide newspapers for the Mizzou Readership Program. About 30,000 newspapers were picked up and read by students.

Former MSA President Nick Droege pursued gaining complete, free access to the Missourian for MU students as an online extension of the readership program. The Missourian, one of the four newspapers provided, is the only newspaper in the program that does not provide total online access for students.

“It’s not fair for us to be getting the paper copies and not getting the digital access,” MSA President Mason Schara said.

Missourian General Manager Dan Potter confirmed to Droege he would look into possible changes in December 2013.

Since then, no specific plans have been proposed, MSA Director of Student Communications Gunnar Johanson said. Johanson and Potter are meeting at the end of the week to discuss options.

Potter, in an interview with The Maneater in mid-January, said he and other members of the newspaper are still looking into various options to accommodate MSA’s request. To do so, however, the Missourian runs into technology challenges and high costs.

“It’s not just a flip of a button,” Potter said.

Potter noted that students can access the Missourian archives for free at 99 computers among the Columbia Public Library, the Journalism School Library and the Missourian library.

Dean Mills, dean of the School of Journalism, said in terms of funding, the university treats the Missourian just as it does a chemistry lab. The Missourian receives $690,000 from MU in lab fees.

Droege, Schara and many students feel that because students are staffing and essentially paying for the paper, they should not have to pay the standard fee to access the entirety of the Missourian’s online content.

“It’s necessary because so many students work there,” Schara said.

Mills compared paying to work for the Missourian to students paying for other classes.

“Students have to pay for the class, but they still have to pay for the textbooks,” Mills said.

Students can pay a reduced rate for the Missourian while they work for the paper. Currently, 44 students pay the $16.68 reduced rate for a four-month membership.

After a year of using the current paywall system, Potter is currently reevaluating the time-meter paywall.

“It’s not a failure, but it’s not a huge success,” Potter said of the system.

The Missourian competes as a community newspaper with the Columbia Daily Tribune, which has a weekly paywall of $2.31 for strictly online access.

The difference between the Missourian and the Tribune, is that the Missourian is staffed by students.

“There’s a tension between needing to be as self-supportive as possible and remaining as a teaching outlet for students,” Mills said.

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