Coming soon: A paywall to rid you of your guilt

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You get what you pay for, meaning, of course, that it usually takes spending a few extra dollars to get something of value.

As a business news outlet, we feel pretty good about the quality of our work. We’re pretty sure you do, too. In fact, in our surveys of readers, you’ve made it clear that you like staying informed on important issues (who wouldn’t?), and that you’re OK paying our cheap-as-dirt subscription rate of slightly more than $1.70 a week for our award-winning coverage.

Our subscribers are a loyal bunch. They typically stick with us for years. Even when we give them a chance to provide us feedback anonymously, they often end up saying a lot of nice things.

But not everyone pays for access to our news stories and columns. Sometimes, believe it or not, they toss away their guilt, go to csbj.com and catch up on the latest without so much as a thank-you.

In this day and age (yes, I’m referring to the End Times of journalism), the question that then naturally arises is: should we, in our online operation, continue simply giving away what so many seem to agree has real value in print?

With all due respect to the Gazette, the Independent and anyone else in the journalism game in this town, we’re pretty sure no one else does what we do, and certainly not with the same level of focus and consistency.

And because of that, we’ve concluded it’s only fair to ask you to start paying for our little service.

Now we all know that there are two kinds of people in the world: The fair-minded who would never dream of capitalizing off a reporter’s or editor’s labors without just compensation and … everyone else.

Subscribers to the print iteration of the Business Journal already pay to access the latest news and trends in defense contracting, tourism, real estate, politics and the many other realms we cover. We’ve decided that, starting July 30, anyone logging onto csbj.com will have to do the same.

A little hand-wringing preceded this shift. Some of us are worried that it will cost us more than a few readers. But our expectation is that the cream of the crop will remain, so there’s little to worry about.

Big fights on these questions used to break out in newsrooms in the early days of the Web. On one side: those who wanted to give it all away. On the other: those who understood the danger of enabling an ugly habit.

Information wants to be free, even demands to be free. That was (and is) the mantra of those opposed to charging readers for access. If you’re in the same business as every other guy or gal down the street, that might be the right approach. In fact, you might have little choice. But we’re not in that boat. Day in and out, week in and out, there’s very little in our daily email, on our website, or in our paper that you’ll find elsewhere.

Happily, it appears the news industry has finally settled the argument, and more outlets are beginning to erect pay walls around their online operations.

There was really no choice, because while information might want to be free, it’s also expensive. Reporters need to be paid, folks.

So we’re going to the “premium” model. That’s unwelcome news, I know, to some of you, and we certainly hope not to lose a single person.

Print subscribers won’t be asked to pay any more than they already do; it’s only those who have surfed our website for free who’ll be expected to start paying. New online subscribers will also get a copy of the paper delivered to them each week.

The good news for those unwilling or unable to buy a subscription is that access to a few areas of the site will remain free. For example, you’ll still be able to read some of the stories — though certainly not all — that we post over the course of every business day. You’ll also be able to continue reading the ever-popular, always-controversial John Hazlehurst.

But the biggest breaking stories and the contents of the paper itself will be off-limits to anyone without a subscription. That includes all our in-depth coverage of the important stories and trends shaping the market.

You’ll see a lock on anything that’s off limits to non-subscribers, and you’ll need to login or sign up to gain access to many of the site’s features. If you haven’t done so yet, you can go to http://subscribe.csbj.com to register or subscribe.

This won’t sit well with everyone, we realize. But please remember we appreciate and need your support if we’re to remain a vital source of business information in the years ahead.

Thanks for reading the Business Journal.

Allen Greenberg is the editor of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at allen.greenberg@csbj.com or 719-329-5206.

10 Responses to Coming soon: A paywall to rid you of your guilt

  1. My organization subscribes to the print journal, but there are also quite a few of us that like to access the information online and pass along links to others within the organization.

    Is there any hope of a shared corporate membership, or will this be limited to only sole-members.

    Thanks for your consideration.

    Brad
    July 10, 2010 at 8:26 am

  2. Allen,
    I agree with your direction and am more than happy to pay a subscription fee for your online services. I enjoy reading the journal and keeping current with Colorado Springs business and government issues, but I am sure that I am not alone in preferring to preserve our resources and cut down the paper waste that tends to filter into our day. I’ll pay for a subscription, but don’t send me the paper, just send me the news.
    Joe

    Joe Rota
    July 10, 2010 at 8:50 am

  3. Brad — There are discounts available for corporate accounts with multiple subscribers. Email me at allen.greenberg@csbj.com and I’ll put you in touch with our circulation folks.

    Joe — Can do, sir. Thanks for the note and your support.

    Allen Greenberg
    July 10, 2010 at 10:35 am

  4. Will the daily email be sent to all or just paid subscribers/

    Amy Long
    July 10, 2010 at 1:54 pm

  5. Hi Allen,

    I enjoy the on-line CSBJ. It’s a great source of Information without all the BS the other news media give out. The big question I have is when I sign up, will my two business Website also get access. I do use
    this information feed so my future clients can get a feel for what’s going on in our city. Or will my webmaster have to change my websites and discontinue this link?

    Thanks and keep up the good work.

    With Best Regards

    Kenn Braemer
    Real Estate Consultant
    ERA Herman Group Real Estate

    Kenn Braemer
    July 10, 2010 at 2:16 pm

  6. Allen,
    What do you mean we are getting it for free? To get to this point I had to see six ads and sponsored forecast. Do the advertisors get the space for free? Think about a premium service with no ads for $$$. Times are tough all over.

    Doug
    July 10, 2010 at 4:16 pm

  7. Allen–I appreciate the quality business/local coverage of the CSBJ. As I was reading your story of the paywall, it seems like a “borderline” apology. Allen, no need to apologize! The CSBJ is a quality, value oriented publicaton. If business owners don’t want to pay the subscription fee, then I don’t think they are really in business. Many of us in the business community want your paper to prosper. Thank you to Lon, yourself, and your dedicated staff who put out a quality product every week! Long live the CSBJ!

    M C Pennica
    July 11, 2010 at 6:06 am

  8. I think CSBJ has enough sought after, unique content to successfully charge for online content. I don’t believe the Gazette or the Independent could pull it off to any significant degree.

    Those types of publications rely on stories that are of general interest. The more the general public is interested in them, the more likely they’re going to get the information whether you give it to them or not. There are no “barriers to entry” for information providers in the general interest arena.

    Point being, there’s no one size fits all model for journalism in the new reality. Ultimately, how you derive your revenue will be determined by your users.

    Ed Duffy
    July 12, 2010 at 10:17 am

  9. …However, guilt is not a good marketing tool. Make another selection.
    You’re suggesting that people who have been reading the content that you put in front of them free of charge are doing something wrong. That’s a bit insulting.

    Ed Duffy
    July 12, 2010 at 10:31 am

  10. I agree with Ed. I’ve been reading the CSBJ Daily via email for quite a while – just plain good local news coverage. Like Ed, however, I don’t feel guilty for reading it for free because, like most other people younger than about 50, I don’t read things in print unless I’m in a waiting room. It seems like CSBJ is the one feeling guilty for being on the verge of charging for its product (what a concept).

    Like Doug pointed out, as well, there are clearly advertisers on the site. I think you should adjust your message from trying to project the BJ’s guilt onto its readers to telling them it’s going to be using the new revenue to make its product even better (i.e. removing ads from paid content, and just generally reinvesting in the quality and depth of the reporting and topics, which are obviously already good enough to keep many of us coming back).

    Andrew
    July 13, 2010 at 7:20 pm