By Neal Pattison Executive Editor
Folks in our newsroom think we produce something worthwhile: a steady stream of reliable local news, sports, commentary and photography. Phone calls, emails and letters convince us that many readers have noticed. And an array of awards tells us that journalism peers have noticed, too.
Now, as you browse our website today, you may notice something else – an important change.
Once you read five news articles, you’ll get an invitation to buy an introductory digital subscription to HeraldNet. And when you click on your 15th story link, a message will let you know you’ve used up your allotment of free stories for this month.
Starting today, we are asking customers who enjoy and depend on HeraldNet to pay for the content, just as print customers have done since 1901.
The price is modest: 4 weeks for 99 cents. After that, the regular price will be $8.95 per month. If you already subscribe to the print edition of The Daily Herald, your digital subscription is free.
To get details about how the subscriptions will work, check out our list of questions and answers.
Just two years ago, only 10 percent of U.S. newspapers charged for their websites. A year ago, that number had doubled to 20 percent. Published reports now estimate 30 percent of newspaper sites require digital subscriptions. Among daily newspapers in the Puget Sound region, The Daily Herald is the last newspaper to begin charging readers for website access.
This change is motivated by three important ideas.
Value. Our trained and talented news staff provides coverage that makes a difference to Snohomish County. We cover important news as it breaks. We relate human stories that tell you about your neighbors. We provide useful information that helps you navigate day-to-day life.
Fairness. Gathering, verifying and writing news takes time and money. And for more than a century, print customers have helped foot the bills. Since the launch of HeraldNet in 1997, online readers have not – despite getting more stories, more photos and more updates than print subscribers.
Connection. Our best customers are our longest-time customers. The print edition of The Daily Herald has enviable statistics when it comes to reader loyalty: nearly 63 percent of our subscribers have been steady customers for five years or more. This kind of relationship has allowed us to learn who we’re serving and what they value.
Digital subscriptions offer us the chance to forge the same kind of connection with our online readers. As you pay, as you renew and as – regrettably – a few of you cancel, we will learn what expectations HeraldNet needs to meet. And that’s a good strategy for building a long-time relationship.
Neal Pattison is executive editor of the Daily Herald. Send him questions or comments at email@example.com.