We're worth it

Steve Bartlett
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Our content has value.
If you’re taking the time to read this, hopefully you agree.
Because of the value of what we do, and because we invest a lot of time and money into producing strong journalism, we’re putting a meter on our website this Thursday — 135 years to the day since the first Evening Telegram rolled off the presses.

Nothing draconian or unsettling will happen once the meter goes live. There’ll be no explosions or civil unrest. Food supplies will not be threatened and Muskrat Falls will proceed.

Here’s what will happen: people who visit thetelegram.com will get to access six stories for free every 30 days. When they click on their seventh story within that period, a message will appear on their screen asking them to sign up and pay a nominal monthly fee.

We’re talking about 30 cents a day — one-sixth the cost of a large coffee. Current subscribers won’t be asked to pay a cent extra. Website access is included with print and e-edition subscriptions.

At 30 cents a day, it’s clear the meter is not being introduced to generate mounds of money.

The intent is that it will offset a small portion of the costs associated with producing the quality content The Telegram delivers every day, whether to your doorstep, your mobile phone or your computer screen.

The introduction of a meter will also put a value on the commitment and efforts of our reporters, photographers, editors and columnists.

They go through great lengths — and often make personal sacrifices — to provide readers with news, information and visuals that matter and that move you.

Some people who’ve been consuming our content online at no charge for years will protest. We’ll listen to their concerns, but there’s no going back.

The news business is evolving and meters are part of that evolution. Hundreds of newspapers already have them in place.

For The Telegram, I think it’s about time.

Newspapers should have been charging for online access all along.

In the Internet’s early days, before The Telegram even had a website, I remember a friend coming over to my apartment and surfing the Web for the first time.

Hyped at the thought of being able to look up whatever he wanted, he punched “Brett Farve” into the old AltaVista search engine.

Numerous newspaper stories about the then Green Bay Packers quarterback slowly populated the Netscape browser.

While my buddy celebrated his Internet touchdown, as a young sports reporter, I lamented the fact that the hard work of writers and photographers was being given away for nothing.

It’s bothered me ever since, especially as the years passed and pretty much all of my work — some of which involved months of research — was available online at no charge.

And let’s face it, people just don’t value what they get for free.

To me, the meter is a step in the right direction. It’s a step towards delivering a product of real value — one that costs money to produce — at a very reasonable price.

And it’s a product that should never have been given away.

Steve Bartlett is managing editor of The Telegram. Reach him at sbartlett@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: The Telegram, AltaVista, Green Bay Packers Netscape

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Recent comments

  • Patricia
    April 02, 2014 - 11:11

    Here's another one that bites the dust.!! As a senior citizen who has been reading the Telegram since she was knee high to a grasshopper, I bid you Goodbye,Adios,Hasta la Vista and Soyonarra.This takes the Cake.Now I'll check the obits on Caul's and Barrett's FREE sites!!

    • steve
      April 03, 2014 - 09:46

      Patricia, Obits will remain free I hear.

    • steve
      April 03, 2014 - 09:48

      Patricia, Obits will remain free I hear.

  • Cashin Delaney
    April 02, 2014 - 05:03

    "Muskrat Falls will proceed" - A transformer was shot. And no, it wasn't a robot in a Michael Bay production. Ultimately, some individual criminal did the deed, and has a 5k bounty on her now, but our Provincial Government, it’s Nalcor and this peon’s paper – {‘incite above insight’=TC Media} - helped sow the seeds of stupidity, blame, shame, indignation and confusion toward this project. I will never pay to have my native homeland turned into a divided warzone of deed-propaganda as the populist editor scurries like a cockroach behind a crack in a Quebec-based pay-wall. I should be getting a cheque, if anything, for adding depth to one-dimensional reporting. Your tone is grating enough, now the audacity to shape your self-justification to match that of Deepak Chopra in the Canada Post 5-point plan document ($1 dollar per single stamp today) with the hackneyed coffee analogy. Because coffee is overpriced and people are addicted to it, they will pay. Same as online addictions, but if Twitter becomes a pay-service, will Timmy's justify a coffee hike? For just the cost of 40 tweets...and so forth. I can brew better coffee than Tims, and I can find more intelligent, insightful writing, for free, online. Humans do "often make personal sacrifices", it is called LIFE, and is full of sacrifice. Your paper carriers are youngsters, with no union. Their parents make your deliveries happen, with their gasoline, their SUVs on certain dirty days. What is Russell Wangersky sacrificing - a career as a decent novelist, and his integrity - blaming the non-voter. You can pay Patrick Butler to do that. You probably do not pay that poor student anything, only goading compliments I dare say! "Newspapers should have been charging for online access all along." Steve, it's the same in any industry man, let me rephrase that for you Sir, if you please: Newspapers should have been charging ahead with online access innovation all along. Some did, you didn’t. Your website is not cutting edge. It has no edge, and that lifelessness equals limited advertising, and nobody upping the ante. Why should we pay mainstream media to develop a product? Build a website worth it, that grabs people, and they will pay. The cream floats and gets the producers paid. What floats it is often the lesser stuff. Your old oeuvre of sport writing helps others get paid, because it defines what people will not pay for online – it floats their work, so to speak. If you could have only focused a little more, that day there with your buddy getting’ on the 1990’s interweb, in understanding the medium you were face to face with, instead of wishing for the world to conform to your outmoded perception (pay me for sweating over paper and quill!), you would not even be publishing this joke article once, let alone twice, online (try that free move in print!). You are no more to the legacy of The Evening Telegram than I am to Voltaire. Not handy to it at all, at all. Like the provincial government, your ‘cave of wind’ is being made redundant by bloggers and obsolete due to lack of web-savvy. We buy a readable rag still, because it’s a useful rag. If it’s virtual, we can’t catch budgie poop or baseboard paint with it, I can’t get on the potty with it, (can’t poop reading an IPad) so we won’t pay for it. I did subscribe online before, but other commenter’s have covered that experience. “And let’s face it, people just don’t value what they get for free.” I agree, but there is not a product in question, no commodity changing hands. How can I devalue your information? This analogy breaks down as well, as the expiry date on 90% of your content is measured in hours, not days. I know you want to be part of the GDP, but I doubt any economist will let you (maybe Wade Locke…). Take my free advice on valuing the people, and plan it, and build it first, before demanding tribute. Like Muskrat.

    • WTF
      April 02, 2014 - 07:50

      Does anyone bother to read rants that are longer than the article? I know I don't.

    • Steve P
      April 02, 2014 - 10:03

      If you can't make your point in a few sentences, no one will bother to read it. Rant if you must, but most people these days will not give it the time of day

    • steve
      April 03, 2014 - 09:52

      That went off on so many tangents I thought I was in geometry class!

  • Richard
    April 02, 2014 - 04:45

    I do agree that there is value in the articles and information provided by the telegram.I believe that once a pay system is implemented the volume of visits to the web site will fall drastically,there are many people who are not going to pay,they will just move on to another site,not to mention seniors on fixed incomes and students who just will not be able to justify the expense. The web is where the world exists today for both consumers and businesses. I think that if the Telegram kept their focus on quality articles, that are available to the masses at no charge the traffic on their site would remain at a healthy level. The source of revenue to fund the site should come from advertising,nothing too annoying like pop up ads, but more advertising content in the header,footer and side bar of the pages. Many business like to advertise in area where they know their ad is being seen by many potential customers,web ads these days are far more flexible and appealing than print ads.I think that with a healthy balance of quality advertising and journalism, the number of visitors to the Telegram site would actually grow and the revenue would increase right along with it. I have not even touched on an improved classified section to compete with the Kijiji's of the net, that in itself would improve traffic and revenue.In my opinion the The Telegram can develop itself to be the " go to" destination on the web for Newfoundlers. One thing is certain,web usage is increasing in leaps and bounds daily,advertisers love the web and getting themselves infront of the masses. Newfounlanders are a unique group,we love our local content and advertising; there is an option for a happy marriage of both increased traffic and revenue here for the Telegram if they take the opportunity to explore it. It will be a sad day when the The Telegram chooses to restrict itself from so many people that have depended on it for news and entertainment over the years.

  • Andy Dufresne
    April 01, 2014 - 21:17

    No, you're not worth it. Don't try to pass it off as "30 cents per day". That's $9 per month, more than the cost of Netflix. (Maybe a poor comparison, I don't know). I prefer the print copy, which I still buy every day (I like to read it on my lunch break). I will not shell out FIVE CENTS to read online what I have already bought on paper. And don't try to sell me on a subscription-- yes, it's cheaper for me in the long run, but by the time I get home from work it's old news. I don't need my Telegram at 7:00am. Go back to a late morning/noon printing. I could care less if your staff get off work early with the 10pm press deadline. When I give you MY MONEY for your paper, I want to see last night's hockey scores. I want to see current standings, not from 2 days ago. Hell, I might just stop buying your paper altogether!

    • steve
      April 03, 2014 - 09:58

      But us paper subscribers get online access for free... This is more so for the non-subscribers who never bought the paper and were mooching off the free online. Why should we have to pay for our paper copy and they get it for free? We've already voted with our dollar that they're 'worth it' by paying for the print copy. This is putting the non-subscribers to a decision and leveling the playing field. I'm glad. Why should they get it for free just because they choose to read it on a different medium?

  • Gary
    April 01, 2014 - 20:20

    No, you are not worth paying for 6-8 headlines... If you want a full paper then we can sub to your full paper. But I suppose you have to collect extra funds due to the down fall of the "paper" copies you sold in the past. looks like I have to change my home page to the CBC or VOCM which sometimes have the "breaking news" quicker... So long Telegram !!!

  • Too Funny
    April 01, 2014 - 20:07

    "I lamented the fact that the hard work of writers and photographers was being given away for nothing." Say it ain't so Steve. You're telling me those writers and photographers didn't get paid. I guess that's called literary license in journalism but in the real world we call it "bullshit". Just because the newspaper didn't pass along the cost to the end consumer doesn't mean it was free. Afterall there is no shortage of advertising on this website, sometimes enough to bog down a computer. No, the Telegram is a business first and foremost and the bosses now want to make more money, nothing wrong with that. First it was "free", now a "nominal" fee and in time it will be too expensive. That's just the nature of business, even if that business is to tell stories. But please don't insult our intelligence by trying to spin this as being something other than making more money.

  • david
    April 01, 2014 - 19:28

    Don't tell us you're worth it. We'll tell you. The customer is always right......and a Newfoundland customer is SO right it can hurt. A lot. Good luck..

  • Ken Collis
    April 01, 2014 - 18:17

    Two years ago I subscribed to the online Telegram. One of the things I liked aboutthe paper was being able to comment on stories, and reading other peoples comments. I found that I did have access to all the stories using the subscription, but if I wanted to leave a comment I had to go to the free site. Then when the subscription ran out instead of an automatic renewal, or an email with a link to renew the subscription, I got an invoice in the mail, a month late, asking me to send a cheque. Pretty old fashoned to say the least. Because of not being able to comment, and having to jump through the hoops to renew, I just never bothered. I fully agree that you guys deserve to get paid by people like myself, I think you'll need to put some thought and money into the planned changes. The popularity of the open line shows and the VOCM site should give you a clue that we like to have our say. I have noticed that lately comments on the weekends are being posted in a timely manner and I thank you for that. Remember, step up your game and you will be rewarded. Another thing, you're closing some regionals, so add some regional columns to the mother ship please. I enjoy the 'Feller From McCallum' or whatever it's called, and other local writing. (I'm writing this from my hotel in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

  • Keith Courage
    April 01, 2014 - 17:07

    By the time my weekend arrives I have read all the stories online earlier.We like the WE for the local content. Weekend Life is great but we lost Strong's gardening article , Brace!s fishing article. Before you start pounding your chests and try and get more coin for articles we can get free get your local content up to speed

  • bill
    April 01, 2014 - 16:27

    Well, guess I'll go on over to VOCM !!!

  • JButler
    April 01, 2014 - 16:23

    All major newspapers are doing this so you are just joining the pack. For those who have negative comments, try reading some international news sites and you read the first few lines or paragraphs and then told you have to pay for the rest. The Telegram is worth it!

  • Kilgore Trout
    April 01, 2014 - 15:15

    For every awesome Barb Sweet article you'll have to pay for some snide Brian Jones editorial, which is to say I'm not sure it's going to be worth it.

  • Peter Smith
    April 01, 2014 - 15:15

    The problem is that news is a commodity. Its been proven many times paywalls don't work, and will just serve to drive away the casual user like me. I don't care to see all the articles available daily, to be blunt, most of it is fluff and uninteresting. The few I do aren't worth the price of the things I don't . You want to get viewers and paid content, do some in depth journalism, kill the fluff, and have people actually do investigative news. That seems to have gone by the wayside in favor of the overly dramatic fluff.

    • Kilgore Trout
      April 01, 2014 - 15:35

      To add to Peter's point, I can appreciate the fact that there's going to be content you like and content you dislike, but obviously there needs to be more of the stuff you like. It's like subscribing to the Globe and having to pay for Wente or the NYT and paying for Dowd - the rest of their content makes paying worth it. I'm not sure it's the case with the Telegram.

    • steve
      April 01, 2014 - 15:36

      Peter you're probably right that paywalls don't work. You have no way to see what storys are even posted until after you pay. A meter is different though. You have access to run of the site and can read the headlines. You just can't dive into the articles (or at least an unlimited number of them) without paying. It's the way of the news industry, just look at the globe and mail or any other big paper. I'm ashamed to say that my generation (20 something) is used to getting their news for free. That doesn't mean it isn't valuable or it isn't expensive to produce.

  • fogNL
    April 01, 2014 - 14:52

    The only April fools joke the Telegram has actually pulled off is their attempt to pass of a story about their office not being able to make outbound phone calls as an actual story.