In the wake of Rob Neyer’s announcement that he’s leaving ESPN yesterday, I’ve encountered a good dozen or more people on Twitter, on various message boards and in comments sections saying something to the effect of “I used to read Neyer all the time, but since he’s been behind a paywall, I haven’t read him in years.”
Which is crazy, because Rob’s time behind ESPN’s Insider paywall was relatively brief and ended years ago. His blog went behind the paywall in 2004. It was out and free again no later than 2007 and may have been out as earlier. It’s been free ever since.
There are an increasing number of media outlets looking to put sports content behind paywalls these days. Newsday has done it for a good year or more. The Dallas Morning News will be doing it soon. That’s their prerogative, of course, and I wish them well. But they should look at the Neyer example and realize that once you go pay, people move on and it’s very, very hard to get them back.
Neyer’s brand was ultimately too strong to kill, but I don’t think that applies to everyone. There are just too many choices out there.
UPDATE: Paywalls kill, yo.