El Paso Times Pay Wall is a Gift for Veronica Escobar

As Leonard Martinez of KVIA first reported on November 18, 2013, it appears that the El Paso Times is putting up a pay wall on its website in the near future. A pay wall is basically a requirement to pay for content, in this case the El Paso Times will tease you with small tidbits or headlines of news and then make you pay to read the full article. It’s an attempt to recover some loss of revenue as the delivery of news continues to transform in the digital age.

There are many things I can comment about the local paper’s attempt to stay financially afloat from a business perspective as ultimately it is about selling a product that a consumer is willing to pay for. It is also important that I remind you that on October 25, KVIA also reported that the local paper would be laying off many of its employees. Obviously the local paper is in dire straits even though the city paid them for a building no one else was likely to purchase anytime soon. Many of us feel that the purchase of the Times’ building by the city was a quid pro quo for the paper’s support of the ballpark fiasco.

I have been a very vocal critic of the El Paso Times, masquerading as a newspaper for many years now and as with everything I analyze the potential for misuse of processes. It is no secret that I believe that very powerful financial interests manipulate public perception in order to control the public agenda. I have written numerous blogs about how I believe the local paper is nothing more than a disseminator of misinformation designed to manipulate the electorate.

This latest move by the local paper gives the horde further opportunity to manipulate the electorate. The Steve Ortega repudiation by the electorate has been a wakeup call for the horde. Their easy-street public agenda initiative was severely disrupted by Ortega’s dismissal from public service.

The horde, though, is a patient lot with a substantial financial purse with which to continue their public agenda with. Faced with the Steve Ortega fiasco they are now focused on getting Veronica Escobar reelected as County Judge. Although the local paper’s walling up of their news outlet may seem like counterproductive for propaganda purposes consider the following.

KVIA’s Martinez pointed me to John Patton’s blog. Patton is the CEO of Digital First Media Watch which owns the El Paso Times masquerading as a newspaper. On his November 18, 2013 blog, Patton writes about erecting pay walls on their portfolio of newspapers. Interestingly Patton acknowledges that pay walls have been a failure for his own papers. He, nonetheless goes on to write that his papers’ need “gas in the tank”.

His solution to put “gas in the tank” is to erect an “all-access print-digital subscription” model whereby the paper’s website content is walled and is unavailable to readers who have not subscribed. To be clear I have no problem with that as it takes a significant amount of resources to write coherent content that people are willing to take the time to read. Patton clearly states that each newspaper outlet would wall up its content according to the local market. At this point it is unclear how the El Paso Times, masquerading as a newspaper is going to wall up its content but I suspect that if Bob Moore has any say in it will go something like this.

Keep in mind that there are two important factors at play right now. First is that Veronica Escobar needs to be reelected in order for the horde to keep control over public policy. In order to accomplish that, they need to mask the stench of the Steve Ortega mayoral candidacy while attacking those seeking to oust Escobar from office. The local paper has been instrumental before especially under the tutelage of Bob Moore.

Second, the local paper seems to be under a mandate to implement its new revenue model by the beginning of the year. With Escobar’s reelection campaign needing to stave off challenges she needs all of the public perception manipulation she can get between January and March, at about the time the local daily is expected to wall up its content.

If the local paper were to implement a pay wall where some online content is strategically released to nonsubscribers as teasers while other content detrimental to Veronica Escobar is hidden behind the proposed pay wall then Bob Moore would be allowed to strategically manage Escobar’s political persona.

The printed edition of the paper continues to loose relevance with a significant portion of the electorate as political news is now mostly delivered online. Giving Bob Moore the ability to control what is allowed through the pay wall would not only give him the ability to manipulate public perception but he gets the benefit of shutting down public dissention.

The ballpark fiasco and the naming of the Chihuahuas has clearly shown that the majority of those who challenge the paper’s ability to adequately inform the community or simply to correct the record do so via the paper’s online comments section.

It is clear that the online commenting has been detrimental to Bob Moore’s assistance of the horde and therefore a walling up the content behind a pay wall also further allows for the silencing of the dissenters.

As the election rhetoric increases it will be interesting to see how Bob Moore attempts to manage Veronica Escobar’s public persona as I believe he will bury controversy behind his newly erected pay wall while allowing useful stuff for Veronica to emerge.