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.

Steve Bartlett

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 press.

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 to 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 the 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

  • Mary McKim
    April 03, 2014 - 17:33

    I truly value the journalism of The Telegram and I know that the commitment to the craft goes above and beyond the call of duty. But - I really wonder if the high-minded reasons for charging for on-line viewing is really so high-minded. Hasn't the journalism always been worth it? Why now? It would be more credible if The Telegram said up front that the reason for charging is because the company wants to make more money. Readership in dailies has declined. Some newspapers have simply folded…. or gone totally on line. There is nothing shameful in admitting to the goal of making a profit. In fact, it seems more honest then wrapping yourself in the flag of journalistic merit. Truth be told, you get paid for the print ads. You get paid for delivering the Go Bag of flyers. You get paid for on-line ads. You get paid handsomely for obituaries. And you get paid per copy of the paper sold in stores and delivered. The move also begs the question of whether the increased revenues are going to go back into journalism in raises to Telegram staff or hiring more journalistic staff - or does it all go to the corporate profit margin? Truth be told, the journalism in The Telegram has always been worth it.

  • Just Saying
    April 02, 2014 - 19:35

    All you complainers... The Telegram is part of a national chain. Some papers in that chain, including ones in areas the size of ours, have already implemented this system, months and months ago. Do you honestly think you are giving them advice by saying "This will never work" "your readers will drop" etc? You don't think this has been investigated? It is obviously already working for the company. Get with the times. You are complaining because you are being asked to pay for a service that you think you have to right to get for free. Try that complaint with any other business! $8 a month or whatever it is, is nothing. PS: I'm laughing at all you who say "I'll just get it free on the CBC or VOCM websites." CBC is NOT FREE, you are already paying for it but you don't know it! And VOCM is radio, it offers news briefs. Two paragraphs mostly. So go ahead, see you back here in a bit.

  • Pat
    April 02, 2014 - 15:58

    LOL good luck with your new endeavour. I felt your website was poor quality and untimely. Stopped surfing to your site several years ago. Charging is just absurd in an information at your finger tips world. I wish you good luck but this will be the beginning of your demise.

  • Rick
    April 02, 2014 - 13:35

    rather pay 30 cents a day and sit with a complaining Grand Falls Cataracts fan

  • George
    April 02, 2014 - 12:03

    I would never subscribe to the digital version of a paper that has "Man on track to be millionaire by age 35" as its cover story.

  • Saucy Face
    April 02, 2014 - 11:31

    I've been a long time Telegram subscriber but switched to only the Weekend edition due to the paper's redundency and sensationalistic stories. The last year or so, I've been lookingto justfy even that. You are coming acrosss as a dying publication so it's time to say goodbye once and for all to your print as well.

  • Not Buying It
    April 02, 2014 - 11:12

    Gee I feel really bad now. It had never once occurred to me that The Telegram news online was a charity for freeloaders. With that high and mighty attitude, you certainly won't be getting any of my money.

  • Kilgore Trout
    April 02, 2014 - 10:30

    $8 is what Netflix charges and they just added Coneheads. Now that's money well spent!

  • Bill
    April 02, 2014 - 09:53

    TransContinental's model is easily defeated - clear your cookies or surf using 'in private' mode. Voila, no paywall.

  • saelcove
    April 02, 2014 - 09:52

    and your Quebec masters have spoken

  • poisoned
    April 02, 2014 - 09:10

    Really? You're competing with sites that are free, and your solution is to charge people? Good luck with that. I won't be paying

  • JasonD
    April 02, 2014 - 09:08

    I can't say that I agree to 6 per month. I think that is quite stingy. I am not privy to advertising models used by the paper but I am sure it can be helpful. What about existing advertisers, certainly the views and clicks will drop. at $8 it may not seem lie much but I have pretty much accepted that for free content, I will see advertisements (some of them actually useful). I'll just visit less often and use news.google.com

  • Steve
    April 02, 2014 - 08:48

    Ha ha, just read about this over on VOCM (for free, of course). Definitely not worth it. Bye bye Telegram.

  • DH
    April 02, 2014 - 08:27

    I, for one, will willingly pay. I have never subscribed (because I like a morning paper), but after living in NL for 10 years, appreciate the important role the Telegram serves in the community. For the people lamenting having to "pay" - what do you think the reporters and editors live on - air? I pay willingly for both national and international news sources online. I also read news online at CBC, which is supported by taxpayers (and rightly so). I also realize I am lucky to live in a democratic society where we have a free press. So, even $110/ year is a small price to protect my right to an uncensored or government controlled news outlet.

    • Barney
      April 02, 2014 - 14:49

      I used to pay till the quality dropped drastically, they laid off most of the staff and found out that you can get the paper for nothing from a school or next to nothing on the bus - why I should I pay for it when they practically give it away to a huge part of the population?

  • Brad
    April 02, 2014 - 08:23

    I hope this works, but unless you redesign the platform, it will struggle, and yes, you are definitely worth it. The Smart Edition is a pdf-like version of the hard-copy paper. It misses the advantage that the web medium is capable of delivering. Think Globe's paper, versus their site. Both are rich in similar news content, but they are displayed in a format that appeals to their respective mediums. Simply reproducing the "paper" online doesn't appeal to the customer, or entice them to subscribe. Your webpage/platform needs to be overhauled to pull people in to consume that valuable content. Best wishes with the new strategy!

  • EJP
    April 02, 2014 - 08:22

    Bye Telegram!!!!!

  • Really
    April 02, 2014 - 08:20

    I went from a 35+ year full time subscriber to a weekend one to an occasional online reader. As the quality and relevance of content declined so did my interest. This new change will not affect me as The Telegram is not my 1st, 2nd, 3rd or even 4th choice for "news". Generally, The Telegram is so far behind the news cycle it is worthless. Good luck with your new policy... You're worth it and in some parts of the world dinosaurs may even still walk.

  • Steve P
    April 02, 2014 - 08:18

    If I ever use the Telegram anymore, and hit my seventh article, I'll clear my internet history and start again! :-P

  • Ronnie Biggs
    April 02, 2014 - 08:14

    If this was a bigger city with a larger population and more breaking news (eek I sound like Wolf Blitzer) then I can see the charge. Reality is the paper edition is probably getting less buys and hence the eventual pay-wall option is imminent. Someone has to pay the bills and having 100 small annoying animated ads around a small story here is a terrible user experience. Will Naked Lunch still be free?

  • Bob
    April 02, 2014 - 08:08

    Today is my last visit to this website.I will never pay for a site that has so many glitches and is generally poorly run.There is so much free access on the net,why would anyone pay to use this one which is trouble filled and overly moderated? Take care and see you!

  • Joe
    April 02, 2014 - 07:59

    I appreciate that your paper is on a steady decline. In the digital age, many papers are. Hell, we even read our books electronically now, never mind the 5 or 6 easier ways we receive the daily news. I can see that you're scratching and clawing to survive, but I think you've actually just signed your own death warrant. The Globe and Mail can charge what they want because they're the Globe and Mail. Since that publication went out of circulation in this province I know many Newfoundlanders that subscribe to it online. The Globe is many Canadians favourite newspaper. The Telegram isn't anyone's favourite newspaper. Its our only newspaper, that's why we read it. It was The Telegram that decided to publish online for free in the first place. When you take that away, do you seriously think anyone cares enough to subscribe that hasn't subscribed already? VOCM.com is free. The Evening News is free. The radio is free, social media is free... need I say more?

  • andy
    April 02, 2014 - 07:47

    Good luck with this strategy. What old dinosaur who doesn't understand the internet yet thought this was gonna work online with all the other options the public has? When it fails make sure the cbc does a story on it so we know it's safe to come back.

  • David
    April 02, 2014 - 07:41

    What happened to Telegram TV? What happened to the Photographers Blog? What is the plan for multi media (video production) ? What is your direction for the future? If you want people to pay you will have to step up your game.....Big time.

  • s
    April 02, 2014 - 07:35

    Well, Steve I do agree to a point. I am a person who discontinued my Tely subscription because the Tely made the decision to stop publishing the weekly tv guide. e-mailed w RW - he said that discontinuing the tv guide was your call - because people had other means to get the info these days. I understand that he forwarded my concerns on to you - No reply at all. I sincerely hope the Tely does well - but this lack of judgement w removing the tv guide makes me ? how much the Tely knows its readers because there is no reason to have stopped printing the guide. - fact that news releases don't say how one would pay the 30 cents a day & whether it can be done day by day or is in fact a subscription is required - from a news organization is a gaping concern & will prob be a deterrent for those of us who do not do online commerce.

  • Bill
    April 02, 2014 - 07:26

    Good bye from me too.

  • Herb Morrison
    April 02, 2014 - 07:25

    Glad to hear ,that because I am a current subscriber, the change will not affect me.

  • Seafairy
    April 02, 2014 - 07:21

    Uhh....no .30c per day adds up to $110 per year. The only reason I came here was to see what's on here worth $110 a year. I won't be back.

  • Darren
    April 02, 2014 - 07:19

    I understand that The Telegram would like to offset some expenses but this does not make sense in the fact that there are other option currently available to get the news of the day for free. Why would anyone pay for this service when you can get it for free.... especially when the articles are almost identical. I will be like many others I assume that will use the 6 free stories and then just look elsewhere. Western Star has already implemented this fee and I have since stopped viewing the site altogether.

  • nerilldp
    April 02, 2014 - 07:10

    Good bye, Telegram. Won't really miss you nor the ads either (didn't really mind the ads - understand you have to make a buck). However, as stated by others, there are several other options. The few minutes I take for a quick check of local news, does not warrant a monthly subscription. For those who use The Telegram for their primary source, you already a digital paper. Sorry, but you simply are not worth it.

  • Bob
    April 02, 2014 - 07:03


  • rick
    April 02, 2014 - 07:02

    good bye telegram

  • Barney
    April 02, 2014 - 06:56

    Why not start charging for all those papers you give away free and dirt cheap. I used to subscribe but the weekend paper just isn't worth it anymore - I only got it for the tv guide anyway becuase everything else you can get online for "free"....................face it you are fighting a losing battle for providing a service that the costs constantly increase and the quality decreases.

  • Graham
    April 02, 2014 - 06:49

    Good bye Telegram. You have finally reached an all time low and discouraged readers from your newspaper. By the time you pass it on its already history because the radio and tv stations already have us informed..

  • Blair
    April 02, 2014 - 06:37

    You are competing with other media outlets that do not charge for perusing content online. Additionally, I receive much of the political reporting by the Telegram on Twitter, are you going to make your journos stop tweeting their story updates and opinions? Maybe you need more ads on your web page or higher click rates but limiting access will likely cause online viewership to migrate to other free sites.

  • Roger Kitchen
    April 02, 2014 - 06:37

    I currently am not a subscriber, however I purchase the weekend edition every Saturday and most weeks I purchase the daily paper at least 2or 3 times. I also view this site daily. As soon as I am restricted from reading articles just once, I will then totally boycott The Telegram. You will loose me as a customer for good. I will remove all bookmarks to this site. There are still lots of free sites to go too to view local news and I will use those. Roger

  • Terrible Idea
    April 02, 2014 - 06:26

    Why would I pay to read the story here when I can go to cbc or vocm and read it for free. At least you made ad revenue right now... I won't be checking this anymore following today.

    • Terry Loder
      April 02, 2014 - 06:59

      FREE at the CBC!!! Tax payers pay approx. 1 BILLION dollars A YEAR in subsidy to that corporation, while they compete unfairly against every other media including VOCM.

    • Chantal
      April 02, 2014 - 08:27

      Seriously. VOCM? If anything happens outside of NL they have to go to CNN and if anything happens in the rest of Canada... well it doesn't happen. As for the poor private broadcasters, they receive $880 million in federal subsidies while delivering second-hand American news devoid of any kind of real journalisim. The CBC isn't perfect, but at least it isn't a corporate mouthpiece.

    • @TerryLoder
      April 02, 2014 - 08:37

      So if my taxes are paying for it, then at least I'm entitled to it without paying anything extra. $110/yr for old news about a cat stuck in a tree, or Mrs Murphy complaining about her one horse town's water supply? No thank you.

    • saelcove
      April 02, 2014 - 09:58

      No chantal they are a mouth piece for the FIBERALS