Nobody goes to the grocery store expecting to be given free food.
No one goes to the doctor for an infection, and isn’t expecting to be charged. Nobody runs their air-conditioner and charges their cell phone without expecting to get an electric bill.
No one goes to the movie theater expecting not to be charged to see a movie.
These are all things that I daresay everybody is pretty much OK paying for. After all, none of these places would stay in business very long if they didn’t charge for their products or services.
Yet, according to some on social media, newspapers are bad guys for having the audacity to expect people to pay for certain stories on their website or Facebook page.
Now obviously those of you, who plucked down $1 to buy a copy of this week’s paper, aren’t the people I am talking about here, and we thank you for your business. However, let me give you a few examples of comments on our Facebook page so you know what I am talking about.
“I would enjoy reading about stuff happening in my home town and home county, but like so many others I can’t afford to pay for a subscription.”
“Too bad we can’t read the articles and see what kind of things are coming … I don’t even understand why they post on Facebook. No one can read anything.”
Based on these and other comments we periodically get from time to time, I’m not sure everyone understands how newspapers function so let me offer an explanation.
Newspapers are a business. It takes money to rent office space, buy computers, purchase software to layout the stories and edit photos and pay for printing costs among other expenses. None of this is cheap. Then there are costs to pay the salaries of our employees, who enjoy having a roof over their heads, and money to buy little things like food.
I can assure you that no one ever got into community journalism to get rich. You have to have a certain passion to want to do this.
Most newspaper funding comes from advertising purchased by local businesses, and featured on the pages of our newspaper or on our website.
Newspapers are not non-profit corporations although the profit part is becoming harder and harder for the industry, as a whole, to come by. The News Journal is faring better than most. Still, it is a struggle to get advertising dollars many times for a multitude of reasons.
Our other major source of revenue comes from subscriptions or money people pay for our product, whether it be a physical copy of the paper or the electronic edition.
It costs $1 to buy a single copy of the newspaper from a rack, or you can get the online version for just $35 per year. Some of our online stories have additional content that we couldn’t fit in the print edition, such as longer, more detailed stories, or pictures, which there just wasn’t room for in the paper.
The good news is that if you buy a subscription to the News Journal to have our paper delivered to your home each week, then you also get to access our electronic edition and all the content on the website without paying any additional money.
This is a pretty reasonable cost in my opinion since you get local news, features, sports coverage, obituaries, public records and opinion columns, like this.
For those that don’t know, the government doesn’t directly subsidize newspapers, and only indirectly through legal advertisements, such as publishing delinquent tax lists, legal notices, and so forth. If many politicians had their way, government wouldn’t even spend that.
While our local officials are great to work with, there are many politicians on both sides of the aisle in state and federal government, who would like nothing more than to see a lot of news outlets go away.
Many don’t like to be scrutinized, such as answering open records requests about why they spent half a million dollars renovating their offices during a recession, or hired a relative on a non-bid contract to do thousands of dollars worth of questionable work for the government. You get the idea.
By and large, with the exception of a few major television organizations, newspapers do much of the investigative journalism that you hear about.
While newspapers would love to be able to get by just on the advertising dollars we receive, revenue from the subscriptions is a must in this day and age.
Just like grocery stores can’t give away all their food for free, newspapers can’t give away all of our content for free either whether it is a physical copy of the paper or online stories.
I hope this column gives you a better idea about the economics of newspapers, and why we do what we do.