Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Toronto Star paywall gets higher upon $5,000 purchase of new Rob Ford video

As an explosive new video of a ranting Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was posted online in the noon hour on Thursday, some visitors to the front page of the Toronto Star website found themselves blocked from seeing where they could click further, at least without the purchase of a digital subscription if recorded as having already read 10 articles in November.
The video in question was also posted to YouTube, which allowed it to be embedded or shared everywhere else, although the strategy does provide some indication about how serious the Star is about charging for online journalism by blocking its headlines from non-subscriber view.
While the homepage of news sites traditionally allow headlines to be perused, a new approach appears to be in play, which requires registering for access before being able to look at the top story links.
thestar homepage Toronto Star paywall gets higher upon $5,000 purchase of new Rob Ford video
Disclosure that the Star paid for this new video suggests a change of policy from how the newspaper presumably rejected the initial offer to purchase the crack video that sparked this scandal — about six months before it was recovered by police.
Some details about the acquisition were offered in the initial report: “The Star purchased the video from a source who filmed it from someone else’s computer. The person with the computer was there in the room, the Star was told.”
An update later in the afternoon suggested they were not eager to disclose the amount paid “but it is consistent with fees paid by news organizations for exclusive videos or photographs.”
The article about the video indicated the Star was assured the money went to “the legal and beneficial use of a family,” with the implication that the drug trade would not benefit unlike the shadiness that surrounded the “crack video.”
Further details about where the video was shot were a mystery at first as Ford told the media it was shot while he was “extremely, extremely inebriated.” But it was later revealed that it was filmed with a smartphone at the home of a “businessman” supporter with four people between the ages of 20 and 60 present. Details about the subject of the mayor’s tirade and the motivation for the sale were not revealed.
Cooke appeared on CP24 to explain how the deal was sealed on by investigative reporter Kevin Donovan, who met a source at a crowded Union Station as part of a multi-reporter operation compared to the thriller The Bourne Identity — and added that “no one is getting rich” from this.
“We paid what we would normally pay for a video of that nature … it’s the cost of what you might pay for a good dinner,” he told CP24 host Stephen LeDrew — under the presumption that the former Liberal party president and failed mayoral candidate was a “moneybags” — who noted that Gawker sought to raise $200,000 to pay for the infamous “crack video.”
Later on, it was confirmed by the Star that the purchase price was $5,000. The Toronto Star Newsroom Policy and Journalistic Standards Guide states that it does not pay for information — although the video might fall into a different category.
“The mayor is in front of us a day or so ago saying he’s nothing left to hide and he’s called … us all liars and maggots from the beginning when we reported two of our journalists seeing that video seeing the mayor smoking crack, or what we thought to be crack,” Cooke explained the rationale behind the buy to The Canadian Press.
Marketing for the Star’s Digital Access campaign has continued with reporters on the Rob Ford beat frequently encouraging sign-ups in order to provide its newsroom with revenue. Torstar Corp. announced earlier this week that print advertising declined by 16.6 per cent in its third quarter.
Torstar president and chief executive David Holland noted a trend of subscription cancellations saying that they could read all the articles for free on the web, at least until the paywall went up in August.
The introductory first-month price of 99 cents, which also includes free home delivery of the Saturday print edition, increases to $9.99 plus tax in the second month. Existing print subscribers are currently not charged to read the website at anytime.
Star content is generally available for free when accessed via social media links, an approach retained by other outlets that have erected a paywall, including The New York Times.
The Star also posted the full video to its own account to YouTube — but evidently removed its version by late Thursday afternoon.
UPDATE: An official star copy was uploaded to YouTube again the following Tuesday:
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