YDR Insider

Part of the USA Today Network

PO Facebook exchange brings out intriguing paywall questions

The Chambersburg, Pa., Public Opinion’s Facebook site is a popular place that effectively brings together the Franklin County community. The site hosted a recent conversation on paywalls, or online subscriptions.

Becky Bennett, editor of our sister news organization in Chambersburg, west of Adams County, has provided a guest post to YDR Insider.

Her topic?

Her news organization charges for online content, using the same paid content technology installed at ydr.com and its sister sites. The issues she addresses are akin to those facing ydr.com and its readers.

Becky wrote:

Several Public Opinion readers had an interesting exchange on our Facebook page recently, regarding our charging for access to our website.

The first poster said:

I don’t blame the PO for charging. Yeah, you can get the news elsewhere for free. But if you are able to read everything online that is in the paper, then why would you buy a print copy? And then where would the money come from to have the site for you to read the news? Who would pay the reporters who write the articles that you read in the paper?

The response:

…the issue is that publicopiniononline.com is covered with ads for local businesses. Web pages sell ad spaces to pay for their pages, so it would seem that Public Opinion is double dipping by asking readers to pay for the page as well.

Both posts raise good points. The first person is correct in saying that we charge an online subscription fee to help pay for the cost of producing the news posted on the site. Poster #2 is correct that we also sell ads to help pay for content, which our print subscriber base can’t continue to subsidize. The key word is “help.” Neither the online subscription fee nor advertising alone is sufficient to fund the considerable costs of newsgathering.

Simply raising ad prices to cover our full costs is not a solution while advertisers around the country are still contemplating what access to an online audience is worth to them. Nor is balancing the budget by slashing expenses and thus local content.  The business model for supporting digital local news is still evolving. We can’t say with any certainty what it will look like in the future, but for now charging our readers for digital access to a dynamic and comprehensive local news report is part of the path to sustainability.

Also of interest:

The Chambersburg Public Opinion, Hanover Evening Sun, Lebanon Daily News and the York Daily Record/Sunday News pool stories and photos to provide comprehensive coverage of this portion of Pennsylvania.