A question very deserving of an answer

Published 6:05 pm Tuesday, July 16, 2019

A letter to the editor in today’s (Wednesday, July 17) edition asked a very important question….why did the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald opt to change its website from free to a pay-as-you-go format.

Sarah Tinkham raised some very compelling points, perhaps the most important of which is she feels that our paid website will limit access to the news that shapes the Roanoke-Chowan area…a region that is economically distressed.

Even though we announced this change a month ago (both in print and free on our website), I felt compelled to answer her question.

Our decision to change to a paid website came after long deliberation. Over the past two years we studied the pros and cons, particularly the ones she addressed regarding a great number of individuals living in our rural area who face financial struggles. We studied several different options….some requiring as much as a $50 annual subscription fee.

We opted for the “pay-as-you-go” model based on price. The maximum an individual will pay per month is $2, which translates to $24 per year. Two bucks a month is about what a person will pay each morning to enjoy a cup of coffee.

Among the driving factors to make this change centered on our print subscribers. We have been contacted – on numerous occasions – by our subscribers who expressed their dissatisfaction over the fact that they pay to receive our printed products (either by mail subscription or purchasing via single copy through a rack) while those choosing to get the same news through our website could do so free of charge.

I had a phone conversation with a man last week after I posted a link on our Facebook page to a breaking news story (“Smash and grab” robbery at Duck-Thru) that was on our website. He suggested we look for other revenue options in order to keep our website free. I explained to him our only other revenue options are through advertising and subscription sales. He suggested we raise those rates. That’s the mindset we face…..”don’t tread on me, but do what you must to the other person so I can get by without paying a dime.”

Posting news online – breaking or otherwise – takes time and money. We dedicated several hours during the weekend of July 6-7 and into the early stages of the following week updating our website on numerous occasions in regards to the incident involving the Martin County man fleeing from Bertie law enforcement.

News never sleeps. Last Wednesday night I put up a breaking news story about an attempted robbery at Ahoskie’s Pizza Hut. Then, on Thursday, we worked to put up the breaking story about the Duck-Thru robbery in Ahoskie….which, by the way, also had a Murfreesboro and Bertie County connection.

Again, returning to the cost factor, we feel a maximum of $24 annually is a small price to pay to receive news electronically. It’s very simple to sign-up….then it’s 20 cents per story to read (the money is subtracted from a “digital wallet” set up at registration….the user decides how much money to put in). NOTE: There is a special introductory offer until the end of this month….place $3 in your “wallet” and we will automatically double it to $6. That means you are paying for 15 stories and the next 15 are on us!

We do offer a key incentive all the time….once a person reads their 10th story within a calendar month, the remainder of the month is absolutely free of charge. That’s where the maximum $2 per month fee comes in. Really, that’s all a person has to invest….there are no hidden charges.

In setting up this new platform, we opted not to charge for online access to obits, classifieds, and public notices.

And, in a show of respect to our loyal print customers, those who subscribe to the News-Herald can contact us to receive a code that gives them totally free access to everything on our website.

We continue to look forward to remaining the #1 source for news – in print and online – in the Roanoke-Chowan region.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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