Times-Journal website to charge for content beginning March 1

Published 11:39 pm Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Times-Journal website will begin charging for content beginning March 1. -- Illustration

The Selma Times-Journal has announced it will transition its website, selmatimesjournal.com, to a pay for content model effective March 1.

The newspaper’s publisher, Dennis Palmer, says the move allows the company to continue to meet the needs of its website users and advertisers while offsetting increasing costs to gather and distribute news digitally and in print. He said it also allows the newspaper to charge a reasonable fee for gathering and distributing digitally the newspaper’s unique local content, similar to how the newspaper charges for delivery of its print edition, The Selma Times-Journal.

“For more than a decade we’ve offered our news content free through our website following the early trend of newspapers delivering digital news content in such a manner,” Palmer said. “More and more small, hyper local newspapers across the country are finding flaws with such an operational structure and like them we’ve determined such a business model simply doesn’t make sense.”

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In an effort to allow access for varied users, selmatimesjournal.com will utilize a tiered system of payment where a user can have as much, or as little access as they’d like.

“We’re rolling out three different pay models,” Palmer said. “The most cost effective option is an annual subscription where readers can receive 24 hour access for 52 weeks for only $48. Or users can subscribe one month at a time for $4.95. We also have an option for a two-day pass for those who are only interested in a particular story or who want to search our archives.”

The newspaper’s website has partnered with PayPal for its subscription payment processing. PayPal serves more than 87 million people worldwide with its secure online payment processing service.

“We chose PayPal because we wanted an online payment processing service that was proven, trustworthy and easy to use and PayPal met those criteria,” Palmer said.

Subscribers to the print edition of The Selma Times-Journal will be able to have the cost of the digital edition rebated back to them. Palmer said digital subscribers will have the opportunity from their profile page to notify the newspaper of their digital subscription and have the fee credited to their print delivery account.

“We wanted to make sure our print edition subscribers who pay in advance for their delivery receive access to selmatimesjournal.com free,” Palmer said. “This option allows them to do so, giving them a benefit for being a print subscriber. It also allows them to read their newspaper at home, at the office or while traveling without having to take the print edition with them while still receiving the special content and sections the newspaper produces annually.”

Times-Journal editor Tim Reeves said the move to the pay for content model is a move most if not all newspaper companies are debating.

“The topic of paid online content is one we as an industry have discussed for years and, in making this transition, we sought to make it as easy and reliable a process as possible,” Reeves said.

In advance of the change, selmatimesjournal.com has placed a countdown clock on its website and is notifying print subscribers through direct mail and other means.

“We realize this will be a big change for those who are used to receiving our service free,” Palmer said. “Last month selmatimesjournal.com had 50,212 unique visitors who spent an average of four minutes per visit while viewing 706,828 pages of content. We realize we are likely to lose some of those readers with this change, but its obvious to us the investment we make each day in delivering uniquely local content has value.”

A recent Pew Research Center study showed nearly two-thirds of internet users paid to access or download some kind of online content from the internet. While the most popular downloads were music, apps and software, the study showed that 18 percent paid for digital newspaper, magazine or journal articles with the typical user paying about $10 per month for online content.

“When compared to the Pew study, our online pricing model is very affordable and our content is unique to our area and readership,” Palmer said.

Those with questions are asked to call 334-875-2110 for more information.