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Borough Beeswax: Buzzing About Paid News Sites

Would you pay to read the Courier-Post online?

After years of heavy layoffs, Gannett, the publisher of such papers as the Courier-Post, Asbury Park Press and USA Today, believes it has found a new revenue model.

The company announced last week nationwide (with the exception of USA Today). Gannett says the public is ready for such a move, and expects the strategy will bring in $100 million in its first year.

We asked Collingswood residents and visitors whether they believe readers are prepared to pay to read the newspaper online.

“Charging for digital content is a way to survive,” said Gene Bradford of Haddon Township, who says he has been a digital subscriber to the New York Times “for years.”

“Digital is part of where we are,” he said. “Companies use technology as a way to streamline their workforce to have a greater profit.”

Odilia Rivera-Santos of Queens, NY, pointed out that many companies are able to get user-generated content from non-journalists in the form of blogs, webcam videos and mobile phone cameras.

“The Internet is where the most interesting journalism is happening,” she said. “Bloggers are doing a lot of good work. Everyone with a video camera can post their perspectives.”

“There’s more than one answer to a problem,” she said.

Steve Roth of Washington Township, who subscribes to both the Courier-Post and Philadelphia Inquirer thinks paying for digital news content “hurts the newspaper business a little bit.”

“I like to have something tangible in my hands.”

Natalie Walker of Pennsauken, another Courier-Post subscriber, agreed.

“I don’t think I would pay for it online,” she said. “I like the feel and smell of the paper and I spend too much time on the computer at my job.”

Walker also looks forward to the print copies of the sales circulars and coupon sections that come with the weekend newspapers in a way that she doesn’t get from online shopping.

“I don’t think I would take the extra step to print the coupons,” she said.

Julia Scott of Stokes Avenue says that her household gets its news from the local television networks.

“I don’t read the paper,” she said. “I wouldn’t [read it online] if I had to pay.”

Stokes said a lot more people latch onto articles on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter rather than paying for subscriber content.

“I do find out a lot on Facebook,” she said. “People post articles; if I see a good article up, I’ll go on it.”

David Hunter, publisher of the What’s On news magazines, said that newspaper publishers like Gannett should have begun charging for digital content the day they launched their websites.

“If you’re running a company, it costs you money to produce a product or service,” he said. “You have to be able to cover costs and make a profit.

“A company cannot survive if the manufacturer gives its products or services away,” Hunter said with a twinkle in his eye, adding, “which makes me wonder how Patch can survive.”

Joe Waters February 26, 2012 at 03:07 PM
I used to be a digital subscriber to the Star-Ledger.. very nice the digital format was the same as the printed version. I can't stand reading the Courier-Post printed version, their online content is horrible so I'd never pay for it.

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