PUBLISHER'S COLUMN | Online news, a service that’s worth paying for

For 90 years, the South Whidbey Record has provided loyal readers with coverage they can count on.

The industry has been transformed countless times during that century, changing from hot-lead presses to giant floppy disks to all-desktop. Now, approaching our second century, newspapers are finding a place on the Internet.

Our most avid website readers will notice something new starting today. After viewing eight articles online, you’ll receive an invitation to buy an introductory digital subscription to southwhidbeyrecord.com

When you click on your eighth story link, a message will let you know you’ve used up your allotment of free articles for the month.

We are now asking our readers who enjoy and depend on the website to pay for the content, just as our print customers have done since 1921.

The price is modest, just 99 cents for the first month of full access to the website and all that it offers. After that, the price will convert to regular subscription pricing, just $45 per year. The best part is, if you already subscribe to the print edition of The Record, your digital subscription is included in the price of your subscription.

It was just two years ago that only 10 percent of newspapers in the United States charged for their websites. A year ago, that number doubled to 20 percent. Now, published reports bring that number to 30 percent of newspaper sites require digital subscriptions.

This shift in the newspaper industry toward charging for web content is rooted in some very important factors.

Value: Gathering and reporting the news requires a trained staff of professionals who believe in community journalism and ensuring that you have the information you need to make informed decisions. From breaking news to events coverage, it’s these journalists — people who live and work among you — who are telling your stories and recording local history.

Fairness: Gathering, verifying and writing news and taking photos takes time and money. From the moment the website was launched, our print customers have footed the costs of reporting the news. Online readers have not, despite access to breaking news and the added ability to interact with others and the newspaper through online commenting.

Connection: Our best customers are our longest-time customers. The Record has unsurpassed coverage and readership on the South End. We appreciate and honor this loyalty. Time and again you’ve shown us that you need and want community journalism like that found inside the pages of every edition of The Record.

Digital subscriptions are the next step in the evolution of newspapers. They will strengthen our ability to forge the same connection with online readers that we enjoy with print subscribers. It will allow your community newspaper to provide the kind of community coverage you’ve come to rely on for the next 90-plus years.

And through all of this, I welcome your comments and feedback. You can email me directly at kgraves@whidbeynewsgroup.com

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