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Without print, you can kiss website goodbye

Oct 25, 2013


By Jeb Bladine
Of the News-Register


All WhatchamaColumns

Interesting things are happening at the intersection of print journalism and digital media. And the experiment continues.

Readers of The Oregonian, now with four weekly home deliveries, can fill the gaps by reading a much-expanded website. Some do; most, I would wager, stick to their four weekly print papers.

Closer to home, our News-Register website requires a subscription for full access to diverse content. One challenge of late is explaining to people why the charge for accessing a website is the same as having a newspaper delivered to your home.

As one reader reasoned: “Given that the print edition involves paper and postage, I would expect the online-only version to cost less … Until the online-only version is priced at something reasonable, by which I mean considerably less than the print version, I’m afraid I won’t be renewing.”

From one perspective, that seems to make sense. But here’s the thing:

Newsprint and postage do not, in fact, cost more than the creation, maintenance, ongoing development and staffing of a complex Internet content management system. The real costs are for people and facilities to gather, write, edit and process all the news, images and commercial messages, and operate the business behind the scenes.

We intend our website to be an added value to newspaper subscribers, not an invitation to replace print subscriptions with less expensive Internet-only access.

Without print subscribers, the business fails. Despite all the digital experimentation over many years, newspapers survive only by delivering commercial print messages to their readers in the form of display and classified advertising, and preprinted advertising inserts. That delivery doesn’t occur online.

It’s as simple as this: Without print subscribers, there is no newspaper — in print or online. So, we charge the same for online-only subscriptions as for the combination of home delivery plus online access. Think of it as a single price for a subscription to the News-Register, but on special request, we won’t send the printed newspaper to you.

As I said, the experiment continues. If recent trends persist, perhaps newspapers will eliminate all the presses and paper and postage, moving to Internet-only for all subscribers. Maybe, but I don’t think I’ll be around to see that happen.

Meanwhile, since anyone reading this probably is a print subscriber, go to www.newsregister.com, register your free online account and check out that “added value.”

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@news register.com or 503-687-1223.

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