A move we felt was fair and much neededPublished 2:03am Sunday, February 20, 2011
Earlier this week we published a news article announcing that March 1, we would begin charging a small fee for complete access to our website, selmatimesjournal.com. We followed industry trends more than a decade ago when we created our website offering free content and supported (we thought) by advertising. We believed the advertising would pay for the cost of operating the website plus yield a fair profit for our investment. But that has never happened. We established our website at a time when the Internet was just taking off as a mass communication and marketing vehicle, a “wild, wild, west” of sorts where free content was the model media companies followed.
Flash forward a decade and as it relates to the media industry the rules have changed and continue to change from a business perspective. Our industry is waking up to the reality the business model we created more than a decade ago simply doesn’t make good business sense. Digital advertising is an excellent vehicle for businesses to advertise their goods and services, but, in community newspapers such as ours it hasn’t offered the opportunity for us to make a fair profit for the unique content we deliver. Thus our decision to begin March 1 charging what we consider a reasonable rate, 13 cents per day, for full access to our website.
The announcement didn’t sit well with many readers and understandably so. If I’d been getting something free for a decade and were suddenly asked to begin paying for it, I’d be upset, too.
Some people understood, most vented their displeasure. My response was we are not being greedy; we only seek to charge a fair rate for what we deliver each day to readers. Like every business, charging a reasonable fee allows us to sustain our business’ operations, pay our 30-member staff and vendors and invest in our community.
We don’t often talk about how we invest in our community, but we do. We financially support many civic endeavors in Selma–Dallas County such Arts Revive, the Selma–Dallas County Chamber of Commerce, the Boy Scouts, the Economic Development Authority, the Selma Community Concert Association, the YMCA, the United Way and many others. We provide a venue for people to communicate with each other through letters to the editor, personal opinion columns and through the comments section of our website. We also allow readers to show off a little by publishing photos of themselves, their friends and family members. We mark happy events such as engagements, weddings, births, ribbon cuttings, industrial announcements and, unfortunately, sad events such as deaths, crimes and divorces.
I see a quality community newspaper as the conduit that helps community members communicate with each other. We also document history; history people can save for future generations to see.
The other day I was in Cuttin’ Loose getting my hair cut and on the wall was a framed article from a past issue of newspaper documenting the business’ ribbon cutting the day they opened. Had we not been at the event, written and published the story the memory would not have been as clear several months, or years afterward.
Certainly, we’d like to do more than we do now for our community. We’d like to be positioned financially to publish more stories, photos and to help document more history, which is why we seek to charge a fair rate for the service we provide – in print and online.
I thank you personally for reading and for being a part of our own history, a history that dates back to 1827 when this newspaper began.