By Jay Seaton
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
If you find yourself logging on to our website, GJSentinel.com, you might notice a few changes after Sunday. If you are a daily subscriber to this newspaper, you needn’t worry. Those changes will only benefit you. You will still have total and unfettered access to the website as well as a new electronic edition of The Daily Sentinel as part of your subscription.
If, however, you are not a seven-day subscriber to The Daily Sentinel, you’ll find that you’ll be asked to subscribe in order to view an entire story you’d like to read.
This change is not a result of the alleged poor state of the newspaper industry. Rather, it is an acknowledgment that, about 15 years ago, we got it wrong. As an industry. With a couple of noteworthy exceptions, we all got it wrong. Giving away one’s value-added product is not a sound business plan. Enstrom’s does not hand out boxes of its delicious candy for free; and The Daily Sentinel is no longer making available for free its unique offering. We spend millions of dollars each year gathering, scrutinizing and presenting to you information that you can rely on.
About 15 years ago, we in the newspaper business believed that the Internet would be the greatest advance for newspapers since the printing press. That is, we could put our content out there for free, everyone would see how brilliant we are, and advertisers would flock to us as a result — offsetting the fact that we were giving away our core product. We would all be millionaires!
Except, it didn’t work. Indeed, it fell flat.
As it turns out, electronic advertising (like Internet, radio and television) is not as effective an advertising medium as paper for many advertisers. Moreover, the space available for all Internet advertising (the supply) is basically unlimited, so regardless of the volume of demand, by operation of macro-economic principles, the price for Internet ads is significantly lower than ads in the printed newspaper, which has a finite supply of space and a strong demand by virtue of its track record of success.
The other macroeconomic “gotcha” at work here is the fact that we have been driving readers away from The Daily Sentinel in favor of a substitute, GJSentinel.com. Significantly, we derive revenue from sales of The Daily Sentinel; we do not derive revenue from visitors to the website. I tell friends that if you give people a choice between Coors and Budweiser — but the Budweiser is free — which one do you think consumers will choose? (Even folks in Golden will choke down the Bud.) Thus, our web hits are skyrocketing as our print subscriptions diminish. Economists call it “substitution.”
So that’s why we’re making the change.
Here is what it will look like: Most of what you are accustomed to seeing on the website will remain unchanged and fully available to everyone after the changeover. Breaking news, stories concerning public safety, wire content, photographs, videos, blogs, classifieds, polls, death notices, calendars, special sections, directories and letters to the editor — all remain free.
The content requiring a subscription will be the core news product that comes out of our newsroom — basically local news, sports, feature stories and local commentary. Though many stories will remain free and available every day, the meat of what we produce will fall behind the subscription feature.
The biggest winner here is the subscriber. Essentially, subscribers to The Daily Sentinel can consume their news in a variety of means: They can read the printed newspaper, they can go online or they can enjoy the e-edition — a downloadable, digital image of the print newspaper — all for the price of a print subscription.
We think this reflects the way many readers behave. For example, each morning I wake up and pore over the newspaper with my Frosted Flakes. But I don’t get through the whole newspaper, so when I get to work I read stories online that I did not get through at breakfast. I might also choose to read the e-edition on my computer or my iPad.
We want this to be a seamless transition. We expect hiccups, but hope they will be few. Existing subscribers to the printed newspaper will have to log in one time in order to continue total access to the website. You can do so at any time. If you encounter problems, please call customer service at 970-242-1919.