Letter from the Publisher: Changing with the reality of online news



To Our Readers:

Undoubtedly, you’ve noticed the world is changing, especially in the way we access information. The Columbian is changing with it.

It wasn’t that long ago when our community received most of its news from our printed newspaper. We’d send reporters into our community each day, they’d write their stories and the next morning — if you were a paid subscriber — the news would be delivered to your doorstep. Of course, that still happens. But now there’s the Internet.

At first, newspapers were cautious. The Internet was a growing competitor. But quickly — very quickly — we embraced it. Today we still send reporters out into our community. But now they tweet from the scene. And instead of just writing one story for the next day’s print edition, they write a breaking story for our Web page. That story often is updated several times and is accessible from smartphones and tablets. And if you access it with these mobile devices, you get all of this hard work for free, no matter how many times you choose to come to our website.

Now, you might be wondering about this “free” part. How does a business succeed when it gives away its work? You might be trying to think of any business that succeeds by giving its products away for free. Well, in the long run, that business model doesn’t work.

So that’s what’s changing. Beginning this month, we’re going to ask our customers to help pay for the information we have been giving away. I should add a few points here:

• Yes, we have advertising on our website, just like we do in our newspaper. It pays for only a fraction of our costs to gather and present high-quality news.

• Initially, you will have free access to all our Web information for the first 30 times you visit each month. That should accommodate the vast majority of our users. Only after those 30 visits will you be prompted to pay. This threshold will likely change in the future. Print edition subscribers will receive the best discounts for digital access.

• Some of the content on columbian.com will have unlimited free access — for example: news section covers and advertising, including obituaries.

The Columbian has been telling Clark County’s stories for more than 100 years. We hope to tell them for the next 100 years. We’re just not exactly sure how our audience will choose to access them. We suspect our customers will be a combination of print readers along with Web, tablet and mobile device users. We do know that more and more readers are shifting to use these digital platforms. And we’re shifting with it.

Scott Campbell

Owner/Publisher, The Columbian