• We also have our e-paper, which is a digital version of the printed paper. You see and can thumb through the actual pages of the newspaper; clicking on a story opens it in a larger window so you can easily read the content. It’s an especially nifty way to read the paper if you have a tablet device and are traveling. Sign up at www.columbian.com/ePaper. (If you have trouble registering for any of these products, call us at 360-694-2312 or email email@example.com.)
Previously, these products all required paid subscriptions whether you take the paper or not. I asked Ben Campbell, our circulation director, what went into the decision to begin offering these products at no extra charge.
Ben explained that the decision was made carefully, because we want to make subscribers happy and reward them for paying for our journalism. But we also need our business to make enough money to sustain the cost of that journalism. He studied a mix of 32 daily newspapers, including Northwest newspapers, independently owned newspapers like The Columbian, and some of the big national newspapers.
He quickly found out that we were an outlier in charging extra to print subscribers, he said. In an era when newspapers are trying to woo paid readership online, charging our best, most loyal customers twice doesn’t make sense. So we changed our policy.
What isn’t changing is the $9.99 monthly cost for a digital-only subscription, or our limit on five free articles per 30-day period for non-subscribers. Like other news organizations, we once thought advertisers would find our site irresistible, allowing us to offer news for free. That hasn’t happened here or anywhere; today just two companies — Facebook and Google — capture the majority of internet advertising dollars.
“In theory, everyone thought it would work,” Ben said. When it didn’t, we realized that we would need to charge online customers, just as we always charged print customers. But now, we won’t be charging anyone twice.