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EDITOR'S COLUMN | Paywall a necessary price of today’s news
Quite a few people lately have been asking variations of what is essentially the same question: Why does the South Whidbey Record have a Facebook page if it’s going to charge readers to view stories?
The simplest answer is that it has one for the same reason any other business does and that’s to connect with customers, in our case readers. Merchants everywhere, including many on South Whidbey, have accounts because it’s such a great way of reaching people, yet very few would agree that having a page somehow requires them to give away their wares or services for free. They don’t and neither do we.
Of course most newspapers, including The Record, did exactly that for years — posted their product online for anyone to read and with no charge — but it wasn’t always the case. It wasn’t too long ago that anyone who wanted to read the paper had to either buy a copy from the stand or have a subscription. The advent of the internet changed all that, and two things happened. First, newspapers continually struggled with the loss of revenue; second, people got used to not having to pay for the paper. Readers got so accustomed to it, myself included, that in a way the news has come to feel like a public service, a fundamental right to which everyone is entitled. For obvious reasons, however, newspapers aren’t set up as government organizations backed by taxpayers, they operate as private businesses. That means they have to pay the bills with earned revenue, and a hefty part of that is generated from subscriptions.
The recent implementation of The Record’s paywall is no doubt frustrating, but it’s a move newspapers everywhere are making in order to stay financially sound. The fact is giving away our product for nothing is as unsustainable for us as it is for any other business.
We’re no different.
We use Facebook as a tool to get our message out, as do countless other commercial enterprises, and like them we ask for something in return for our service. You get a bill when you eat at a restaurant, new shoes aren’t passed out for free at department stores and newspapers have come full circle and are once again charging for the news.
We’re not trying to cheat anyone, just stay prosperous and keep typing in an ever evolving electronic age.
If we haven’t already earned your business, please let us know how we can do so. And to our loyal subscribers, thank you for your ongoing support.