Paywalls are becoming increasingly prevalent at newspaper websites across the United States. Eleven of the country’s largest-selling 20 newspapers are either charging for access or have announced plans to do so.

So says this article (free) in The Guardian. The writer, , goes on to quote Washington Post CEO Don Graham:

“The reason we haven’t adopted [a paywall] yet is that we haven’t found one that actually adds to profits. But we are going to continue to study every model of paywall and think about that, as well as think about keeping it free.”

Graham, and other newspaper leaders are coming at this all wrong. They are blinded by long experience in an industry where profits flowed from printing a finished product each day. Well those days are gone, and that type of thinking needs to go too…

Newspapers in 2013 need to adopt a more flexible, iterative development model for their online operations. Don Graham and others should not be searching for the one “silver bullet” of paywalls, something to buy, set and forget. Instead, they need to dive in and understand that each day is now a science experiment with the results indicated in pageviews, subs and ad revenue. Newspapers need to move away from the manufacturing mindset and begin to understand that online operations are never “done,” they need to be under constant daily development.