Holding something back

Ken Tingley, editor of the Post-Star in Glens Falls, N.Y., explained in a column on Jan. 14 his newspaper’s policy for posting content online. Each and every day, the Post-Star keeps two stories offline and runs them only in the print edition.

Tingley wrote that this is intended to send a message to online-only readers: Give us money if you want everything we offer. (I’m paraphrasing here.)

He writes:

For years, the sentiment was online readers would not pay for news online. That seems to be changing. Readers appear willing to subscribe to certain services that they value. The iPad has shown readers will open their wallets for apps and subscriptions.

We have no plans to charge for use of our website right now, but I see the day in the near future when that will happen.

I believe we produce a great product both in print and online and we shouldn’t give it away. I think anyone in business would agree with that.

I point this out because the Chronicle does the same thing, more or less. Our parent company wants us to only post a percentage of the overall content of our newspaper online for free. We comply with this, in part, by not posting all content on the day it appears in print. For some of our popular content, we wait three days before it appears online.

These sections are delayed:

  • Opinions (letters, columns, guest columns and editorials)
  • Police Reports
  • Features (Sunday page, Lifestyles, Economy, Out There)
  • Niche publications (Business to Business, At Home, etc.)
The Niche publications are actually delayed longer than three days, but part of that is due to technical difficulties getting those products online rather than an intentional delay.

Additionally, the same Associated Press and wire content that is put on the printed page does not necessarily make it onto our website. We do have Associated Press news feeds on our site, but they may or may not have the same stories as we have in print, and they only reside on our site for a short time.

The one thing we haven’t done is hold stories offline entirely (at least not intentionally). I have always argued that this pokes holes in our digital archive, which is the legacy we’ll leave for the future.

Tingley also mentions some of the paywall options that news sites are looking at — ways to get people to pay for their news online. Just like Tingley’s corporate bosses, ours too are studying paywall systems, and some Pioneer papers are experimenting with them already. I’m confident some sort of paid option is in our future, but the details are still vague.

All that prologue leads me to this question, which I pose to the readers. What do you think of the idea of holding stories offline entirely to emphasize the printed paper? Does a swiss-cheese archive online concern you, as it concerns me?

Ultimately, the question for readers is this: Would you pay for news online from your local newspaper?

To my mind, you need to add that bit at the end “from your local newspaper.” We already know that people will pay for news online from sources like the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, but they have big budgets and turn out unique content that has a global audience. They are not the majority of American papers.

These are big questions. I don’t expect answers to come from my mundane blog post on my small, local blog. I do hope that readers out there have an opinion, though. Let me know in the comments.