Janesville40°

Delayed posts boost value of print edition

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Scott Angus
April 26, 2009

Newspapers all over the country are reconsidering their Web strategies, and The Janesville Gazette is among them.

The reason is that Web sites are not generating the revenue that newspapers hoped they would. The sites make money, but they still represent far less than 10 percent of most newspapers’ total revenues.

And then there is a question of the Web sites’ impact on print newspapers. Why should people pay for print when they can read the news for free on the Web?

Given that print still pays the bills, newspapers have a strong interest in retaining as many readers as possible. Circulation trends have not been good, and some people believe the availability of free online news is a key factor.

The arguments on both sides are long and complicated. Nothing is as simple as it seems.

At the Gazette, we’ve discussed and debated long enough.

Starting today, visitors to gazettextra.com will see a change in how and when local stories are posted.

Breaking local news will continue to be posted as it happens as brief stories in the Latest News blog. Full stories that appear in print in our new morning edition won’t be posted on the Web until later that afternoon.

The approach gives our paying customers earlier access to many of the stories that we produce. In other words, if you want to be in the know during the day about the most important issues in your community, you’d better read the morning Gazette. You will no longer be able to catch up at work or at home until much later in the day.

We think this approach gives more value to the newspaper, and we think it will help us slow or even stop the decline in print readership. That’s essential if we hope to continue to provide the content that makes the Gazette special.

Producing a quality newspaper costs money. In the newsroom alone, we have 30 people devoted to following issues, asking questions, attending events and meetings, writing stories, taking photos, editing copy and producing pages. We have dozens of people in other departments who do important work that helps ensure we publish every day.

We need to pay these people and meet our other obligations, and the revenue from online advertising isn’t covering enough of our costs to justify the Web’s impact on newspaper sales.

Other newspapers are looking at charging people for access to their local content on their Web sites. At this point, we’re not going there.

Instead, we think the delay in posting stories will give people more incentive to read us in print. Subscribers also will have early access to the full paper online through our improved E Edition.

At the same time, we think this approach retains much of what has made gazettextra.com an award-winning and incredibly popular Web site. The Web site can do so many things that the print newspaper cannot, and we intend to improve many of those features and add more in the months ahead to strengthen gazettextra.com's franchise.

Is this the answer to the challenges facing the Gazette and other newspapers? Not entirely. But we think it will help.



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