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Scoop.co.nz's Operation Chrysalis - Ask Me Anything

by Alastair Thompson

Scoop.co.nz is a website with which I am sure Public Address readers are familiar. New Zealand's largest independent online news publisher by audience size, Scoop reached 324,791 NZ users over the last 31 days.  Over the past four weeks we have been running a crowd-funding campaign for something we are calling "Operation Chrysalis", which as the name suggests, is about transformation. 

The intention of this post is that the comment thread be used as an Ask Me Anything  opportunity for you to ask questions you have about Scoop's ""Operation Chrysalis" plans.

We will be promoting this post and discussion on Scoop and encourage you to share the link with people who you think will be interested in the future of Scoop. And please do ask me anything. I will - to the best of my ability - respond directly and succinctly.

Scoop's Dilemma - How To Support The Tree

The easiest way to explain the origins of the "Operation Chrysalis" project is to use a metaphor.

Think of Scoop as a Tree.

And think of the central "professional” value provided by Scoop as its Fruit, ie:

a) access to a large influential audience;

b) a complete set of timely information;

c) a rich accessible database of content.

Scoop’s users (and the government and society broadly) benefit from these Fruit.

The Fruit only exists because access to the Tree is free - both to contributors and readers.

But unless there is a Tree there will not be any Fruit.

So how can we get Scoop's readers and contributors to support the Tree?

The objective of "Operation Chrysalis" is therefore to find a method to sustainably fund the tree - i.e. Scoop's free to access and free to publish publishing operation.

A New Ownership Structure & A New Business Model

Operation Chrysalis has two main legs.

  1. To reboot our relationship with our contributors and readers - and to make it more commercial and sustainable;
  2. To restructure Scoop as an organisation so that it better reflects the reality of the situation - i.e. that Scoop is a cooperative effort;

The Scoop response to Leg One is our idea of an "Invisible Paywall" - an aspect of "Operation Chrysalis" which has to date had only minimal exposure.  I deal with in the next section of  this post.

Meanwhile Leg Two is the reason behind our decision to turn Scoop into a not-for-profit news organisation - we also hope this will build a stronger trust relationship between Scoop and its readers. This was the basis of the Pledgeme crowd-funding campaign which hit its initial target $30,000 last week.

The Business Solution To "Operation Chrysalis" - An Invisible Paywall

Towards the end of February an article - somewhat ironically published behind NBR's paywall  - contained the Scoop on Scoop's plan to solve its long term sustainability problem.

Campbell Gibson's article revealed that Scoop intends to begin charging its at-work professional users -  those who regularly use Scoop for work purposes  - for accessing Scoop.  We are calling this initiative an "Invisible Paywall".

Scoop first discussed its "invisible paywall" intentions  at Nethui in 2012. But as 2015 begins - and online advertising revenues continue to tank - we now intend to pursue them more vigorously.

We acknowledge that the "Invisible Paywall" is a novel approach to online content monetisation and that it is likely to raise a few eyebrows. That said, Scoop's - free to publish,  free to search and free to read - news release publishing model is also as far as we are aware novel.

Companies, individuals and organisations which use Scoop are being informed that if they use Scoop routinely as part of their work that they need to have a license to do so. License fees start at $420 pa  for organisations with up to 20 staff and increase to $2940 pa for organisations with up to 4000 staff. If you regularly use Scoop as part of your work consider yourself informed.

Organisations and businesses who choose not to pay have the choice of not using Scoop and/or blocking access to Scoop from their networks. However we are hoping that  if the full circumstances around our "Invisible Paywall" are explained, enough businesses and organisations will be willing to contribute to make Scoop sustainable.

That said, so far the introduction of this new approach has been a fairly steep learning curve.

At the end of January we wrote to Universities and Technical Colleges about our change in policy and suggested they start paying us. Universities are among our biggest users. The universities response which arrived via an article behind NBR's paywall -  was to claim that they do not use Scoop. We thought somewhat disingenuous given the significant levels of university usage shown in our logs.

As Jan Rivers pointed out in this column, Universities routinely pay huge sums to access databases of news and other content shows and clearly understand the importance of being compliant with copyright law. 

In the end the success of "Operation Chrysalis" will likely be dependent on us convincing "business" users of Scoop like Universities to pay for the value that Scoop provides them. If sufficient numbers are willing to do so - at a relatively low per-user cost - then Scoop's future will be assured. If not then we will need to come up with a plan B.

Either way we will find out in the next few months.


After 16 years of daily publishing Scoop has become part of the NZ internet furniture, a constant feature of the place that everybody expects to be around forever.  Russell has described Scoop as "The Home of the National Argument" a description which captures the fact that Scoop seeks to be a big-tent containing the views of all sides of all arguments. 

It is the Scoop team's sincere hope that Scoop will continue to be this big tent for many years to come - to enable every voice to be heard in NZ's public policy debates - and to provide a window for the public to view these debates as they occur.  We have always believed that in providing these things we are strengthening NZ's democracy. And it is for this reason that we have for so long fought tenaciously to keep Scoop alive and independent.

And this is the objective of "Operation Chrysalis".  I hope you support it. 

If you do I encourage you to say why in the comment thread below. A compilation of endorsements may assist us in convincing the establishment of the merits of our "Invisible Paywall" approach.

You might also consider contributing to our Pledgeme campaign.

As I say in the video and blurb for that campaign - I strongly believe Scoop is the best chance an emerging independent online news internet community in New Zealand has of establishing a platform for news capable of withstanding the heavy weather our industry has ahead.

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