Let the Dearthwatch Begin! OC Register Erects Its Wonderwall, Throws It Back to You


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Today is gonna be the day that they’re gonna throw it back to you.
By now you shoulda somehow realized what you gotta do.

Yes, the OC Register’s “wonderwall” is up! And, to switch song lyric references from Oasis to Pretenders for a moment: “You mess with the goods doll — honey, you gotta pay.”

Uhhhhhhmmm — back to Oasis!

As the Orange Lady herself puts it:

Readers who want to browse the newspaper online must buy a subscription or pay a daily rate to have access to the website.

Non-subscribers can try the online Register for free for seven days. A limited amount of content such as weather, traffic, movie listings, the calendar of events and headlines of local news stories will remain free.

The story of how stories will no longer be free is itself one of the free stories. Dale Dykema’s call for the Supes to choose an actually competent non-politician to run the County Clerk-Registrar’s office — and you can (and should!) read Vern’s live blog on that event as it unfolds — is, on the other hand, not.

Political and news blogging in OC just got a little more important — and difficult.

“There are many things that I would like to say to you, but I don’t know how.”

While we’re an alternative source of factual information on some events, we’re as much or more (or much more) a source of commentary on facts reported elsewhere.  We don’t pretend to be a journal of record.  (Well, sometimes we pretend to be.  We have special hats and props and badges and an anthem … but perhaps that’s to discuss another time.)
Snip from 'Wonderwall' video

Yes, this is taken directly from the Oasis video. No, we don’t mean anything *specific* by it, necessarily.  Especially not involving the previous paragraph.

We sometimes use the Register as a primary (well, a primary secondary) source to find out what’s going on in the county, so that we know what to talk about.  We understand that (1) they need income in order to survive and (2) the Weekly already has the hookers, porn,and pot advertising market sewn up, so that’s closed to them.  This puts them in a quandary: how to pay for all of the investigative reporters to unearth corruption in Orange County?  As they say, the San Francisco Chronicle and Washington Post last week made the same decision: charge people to read the local news.

“And maybe you’re gonna be the one that saves me.
Because after all — you’re my wonderwall.”

We do understand it — but we don’t have to like it.  We don’t dislike it because we will miss the Register’s editorial and op-ed columns — or at least we hope we will.  We dislike it because we want to see an informed citizenry — and the LA Times isn’t likely to give it to us way down here to the southeast.  And making information available only to a monied elite — OK, semi-moneyed semi-elite, but still — disadvantages those who can’t pay even as it punishes those who could pay but don’t.
OC Register Digital Access

Apparently, paying customers have been complaining about other people knowing the same things about Orange County that they do.  The Register hears your complaints and understands!

Are you interested in what information you can reprint from Register stories if you do subscribe to them?  Yeah, me too.  I didn’t find any expressed limitations beyond the standard 3-4 paragraphs of allotted “fair use.”  But I’m not signing up to get access to their articles so that I can reprint the good stuff — at this point.  (Will others?  Duh.)

Anyway, the Register is onto all of our tricks.

Launched Tuesday, the Register allows non-subscribers to try the website free for the first seven days, but then readers will be required to pay. [President of Register owner Freedom Communications Eric] Spitz said there will be no way to “game” the system to access the Register using Google, URLs or other websites.

Alan Mutter, a former newspaper editor who went into digital and is now a consultant, applauded the idea of charging for the content generated by newspapers and doesn’t think that paid access will turn away loyal readers.

“The price you charge is not a big deal for most people,” he said.

All right then!  No problem!  (Tentatively.)

Now, here’s what we’re NOT going to do.  We’re not going to get all gleeful like the guys at OC Weekly and crank out three stories in four days (and counting) about the new paywall: that it’s coming, that they’re making fun of it coming, that readers don’t like that they’ve closed off comments about it coming – no, that’s the one on their newest porn star columnist, maybe it’s this one — no, that’s “lawyer asks judge to seal off photo of his penis, maybe this one? — nope, that’s “42 people we want to smoke with”, uh, geez, this one? — damn, “hottest babes of WonderCon” — don’t worry, we’ll find it later.  Meanwhile, let’s go on to — WAIT, FOUND IT!  (Sorry that it took a while; unlike the others, it wasn’t on the first page of their website.)  We presume that the Weekly’s intense interest is based on the hope that readers will come to it rather than to the Register for their news — and as the above inadvertent tour suggests, they have good reason to think that they will!

So, no, we’re not going to get gleeful.  We’re not going to start some sort of “deathwatch” for the Register.

Instead, we’re going to start a dearthwatch — as in, “dearth of online readers.”  We’ll track, at least initially with the help of our lovely assistant Alexa, how their site stats fall over the course of the weeks to come.

Global website rankings (not to be taken too seriously, because we’re not paying for the “certified” results, sigh):

latimes.com546

ocregister.com: 6,021

utsandiego.com9,093 (for those unfamiliar, this is the Univ. of Texas, San Diego)

pe.com22,947 (Riverside’s Press-Enterprise; includes people mistakenly looking for Phys Ed)

ocweekly.com38,089

presstelegram.com70,874 (Long Beach)

sbsun.com101,097 (San Berdoo)

sgvtribune.com: 116,117 (no idea what this is — just kidding, SGValley!)

dailypilot.com162,222 [added 4/4]

voiceofoc.org524,986

orangejuiceblog.com: 787,536

newsantaana.com1,200,608

the liberaloc: 1,280,541

ocpoliticsblog.com: 1,607,606

ocpolitical.com:  2,948,995

We’ll keep an eye out on the Register and its dozen-plus of benchmark competitors — especially once the 7-day subscriptions that went into effect today expire!  (Or Vern will overrule me.  One of those.)

(Note: any volunteers out there other than me to do this Alexa research?  It’s boring.)


About Greg Diamond

Prolix worker's rights and government accountability attorney and General Counsel of CATER. His anti-corruption work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, leading them to work with the Democratic Party of Orange County Chair and other co-conspirators (who had long detested the internal oversight his presence provided) to remove him from the position of DPOC North Vice Chair of in violation of party rules and any semblance of due process. He also runs for office sometimes. Unless otherwise specifically stated, none of his writings prior to that lawless putsch ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level. He tries to either suppress or openly acknowledge his partisan, issue, ideological, and "good government" biases in most of his writing here. If you have a question about any particular writing, just ask him about it and (unless you are an pseudonymous troll) he will probably answer you at painful length. He lives in Beautiful Bountiful Brea, but while he may brag about it he generally doesn't blog about it. A family member works as a campaign treasurer for candidates including Wendy Gabriella in AD-73; he doesn't directly profit from that relatively small compensation and it doesn't affect his coverage. He does advise some campaigns informally and (except where noted) without compensation.