We're worth it

Steve Bartlett sbartlett@thetelegram.com
Published on April 1, 2014

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.