Many times in recent years, people have told me, “I used to subscribe to the Journal, but now I read you online. I can get all I want there, and it’s free.”
It’s an understandable response to the choice we, like most newspapers, put before our readers. While many stories and features that run in the printed Daily Journal don’t appear on Djournal.com, you can find the bulk of our local content there. So it shouldn’t be surprising that some former subscribers – and an even larger number of potential subscribers – take the free option over the paid one.
Our print circulation is still strong, but our online audience has been growing exponentially. That’s good for us – we want as many people as possible to read us, in print or online.
But we still get the overwhelming share of our revenue from our printed newspaper. We’ve got a great online audience, but it hasn’t translated into anywhere close to the revenue needed to finance the news content we provide. While we’re working on closing the print-online revenue advertising gap, equity is still a long way off.
The newspaper industry made a big mistake back in the late 1990s by giving our product away free online. We conditioned people to expect an unsustainable business model.
It’s expensive to produce the news and features in the Daily Journal. We have to pay salaries and benefits, equipment and supplies. mileage, travel and assorted other costs for 36 news, sports, features and photo staffers who gather, report, edit and present the news. The Associated Press and other outside services we use aren’t cheap, either.
We believe what our Journal staffers produce has value to you or you wouldn’t be reading it. Frankly, we’ve given it away for free too long.
In order to sustain the level of content you’ve come to expect from the Daily Journal, all of our readers – website and mobile as well as print – will be asked to pay for it starting Nov. 1.
We’ll be far from the first to do this. Most daily newspapers either have already instituted some form of digital pricing or will soon.
Our “paywall” won’t be absolute. But you’ll have only five free stories a month, and after that, you’ll have to pay to see more. We’ll make an exception for major breaking stories that are updated throughout the day.
We’ll have a complete subscription package that will give you everything – the printed newspaper as well as access to our website and mobile apps – for $10.75 a month. We think that’s the best deal overall.
But if you want just our web products, you can pay $6 a month and have complete access to those or $10 to have the replica electronic edition of each day’s paper included. However you want it, we’ll provide it – at a cost that will still be less than most comparably sized newspapers.
This is not a choice but a necessity for us. You count on us to provide accurate, reliable and empowering news and information that helps you connect with your community. We’re committed to doing an even better job of meeting your needs in the future, but it’s an expensive proposition.
We strongly believe that newspapers have a bright future. And while we fully expect ink on newsprint to be around for many years to come, we realize there are some news consumers, especially among the young, for whom digital is the only way of life, which makes it all the more important we – as any business would – give them a good value and make them paying customers.
The simple truth is that free content ultimately would mean less or no content because the revenue wouldn’t be there to support it. That’s the bottom line – as directly and honestly as we can state it.
Lloyd Gray is executive editor of the Daily Journal.