Star Search: Star Pulls Wool Over Subsciber’s Eyes with New ‘Paywall’ Policy

It certainly was an odd way to make a new product announcement…

New Kansas City Star publisher Mi-Ai Parrish‘s explanation of how the newspaper will begin charging readers for digital content – access to the Star‘s website – was an odd duck to say the least. Parrish rambled on almost aimlessly about different names for the new policy before settling on the fact that “whatever it is you’d like to call it…essentially, we’re going to charge a little bit for people to get our digital content.”

A  little bit, eh?

Parrish later added the words, “a small amount” and “a few cents more” to the very unspecific announcement.

Just enough to confuse one local media blogger into concluding that, “As expected, Parrish did not tell customers how much of an increase they will see in their bills…She also did not address whether print subscribers will have to pay for the digital content even if they don’t access it.”

Hold it right there.

All said blogger needed do to get to the bottom line on the Star‘s new fee structure was look at the newspaper’s online breakdown of the new Kansas City Star Plus program.

“The Kansas City Star Plus provides immediate and unlimited access to all content on our newspaper’s website (, our mobile site (, our iPhone app, mobile readers and our electronic replica edition (E-Edition), in addition to your printed newspaper subscription. The Kansas City Star Plus bundles all the ways you can read The Star’s content into one price.”

Now here’s the answer to the questions Parrish’s editorial left unaddressed:

“With a digital subscription, after Dec. 5, you will have unlimited access to all digital content. After Dec. 5, without a digital subscription, your access to our site will be limited to 15 pages every 30 days. Once you reach the 15-page limit, you’ll need to subscribe or wait 30 days to view additional content. Mobile devices have a different limit.

“Access to E-Star will require a digital subscription.”

What are reader’s digital subscription options?

“There are several options. On your first renewal after Dec. 5, Star newspaper subscribers will have the digital bundle with unlimited digital access for $ .69 a week. This is available whether you subscribe 7 days a week or less.

“After Dec. 5, if you want digital-only access, without a print subscription, the digital bundle alone will be $9.95 per month (or $109.45 per year if paid annually). New digital package subscribers will receive the first month for .99 cents. The digital subscription will automatically renew at the $9.95 per month price.”

In other words, 69 cents more per week extra for full or partial print subscribers.

Will readers be able to use their free Star iPhone app or Mobile reader without paying for a digital subscription?

“Without a digital subscription, your access will be limited to 60 pages every 30 days on the iPhone app (20 pages every 30 days for a mobile device). Once you reach the page limit, you’ll need to subscribe or wait 30 days to view additional content.”

Translation: Presumably younger cellphone readers will get a better deal than Old School computer types.

What if print subscribers don’t want digital access?

“If you never use the website, don’t have a smartphone or tablet, you can opt out of the digital portion when your subscription renews after Dec. 5. To opt out, call us at 877-962-7827 and press 8 for an operator to assist you.”

In other words, the Star plans on banging print subscribers for the extra 69 cents a week and hope maybe they don’t notice it.  And it requires subscribers to phone in to have the charge discontinued. Raising the question, why not let print readers opt in rather than assuming they want it, charging them and forcing them to opt out?

Here’s what’s bogus about the transition to the new program.

Nowhere in Parrish’s print announcement does it tell readers they will automatically be charged (or how much) unless they call in to cancel. Nor does it direct readers to the newspaper’s website for a full breakdown of the charges and policies so they can make an informed decision.

Meanwhile, much of the new newsroom remodeling is complete but the jury’s still out.

Clearly it looks a lot better than the old newsroom back when I was there (and until a handful of months back). And moving people down from Features on the third flood (and Sports) will rid the staff of that haunting feeling of having to stare each day at the dozens of empty desks where people like Brian McTavish, John Mark Eberhart, Ward Tripplet, Paul Horsley, Aaron Barnhart, Robert Butler, Dan Margolies, Jennifer Mann, Julius Karash, Chris Lester, Steve Penn and countless others once labored.

Sources say Star managers like the new, open setup. However many rank and file employees feel like they’re being watched with little to no privacy for telephone conversations or anything else. A number of columnists and writers have dodged the Ghost Town bullet by filing from their home computers.

Check out the new look.


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5 Responses to Star Search: Star Pulls Wool Over Subsciber’s Eyes with New ‘Paywall’ Policy

  1. the dude says:

    No thanks, I’ll pass.

  2. b12 says:

    The Columbia Tribune and Omaha World Herald are also doing this.

    Reach monthly limit of “free” stories…clean out cookies.

    Read free stories. Lather, rinse, repeat.

  3. Hot Carl says:

    I usually browse every other day or so. There’s nothing there I can’t find for free somewhere else. Looks like my last connection to the Star will be lost forever on December 5th. Can’t say I’ll really miss it.

    • Jess says:

      Plus you will get a LOT less pop ups elses where. KC is unreadable with all the popups, banners, and then the crap stories.

  4. Rick Nichols says:

    It’s unfortunate that the print announcement did not refer Star readers to the paper’s web site for a more detailed explanation of the “Paywall” plan. Actually, it’s inexcusable, especially coming from the publisher herself. That said, charging for access to the e-Star makes sense from an economic standpoint as far as I’m concerned, but that also means the paper needs to be generating good content that’s not available anywhere else if the e-Star is to be a desirable destination on the Internet. Now as for that picture, it pretty much confirms what someone who has been to 18th & Grand recently later told us: there aren’t a lot of folks working down there anymore. This fellow counted four people – that’s right, four people – the morning he was there. The only thing I recognize in the picture are the square columns in the middle of the floor here and there. What have they done with the City Desk? No, the place looks more like a bank lobby than a News Room.

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