The best things in life are free, they say. Sunsets, a hug from a child, the loyalty of a good dog are all fine examples but as Jean Shepherd said, “In God we trust: all others pay cash.”
It is undeniable, you simply cannot make payroll on warm fuzzy feelings.
I wish we could deliver the news utilizing trained journalists and advertising services offered by veteran marketing reps without charging a dime, but that is simply not possible. Both are extremely valuable commodities.
For that reason, we are making some changes at the Christian County Headliner News, most specifically to our website. We are changing how non-subscribers (and there are a lot of them) access news at http://ccheadliner.com.
In the past, you could access any story from the newspaper until you hit your maximum number of “views” for the month. If you were tech savvy, you could utilize a different device or clear your memory (cookies) and keep on reading past that free view threshold. We were no different from 90 percent of newspapers in America in this practice, but holding readers to that five free view threshold was virtually impossible.
Over time, some paid subscribers realized they could get the news that was important to them each week and no longer have to pay. Subsequently, our print subscription numbers began to decline over the last decade. This began happening across the country to virtually every newspaper with a website.
It didn’t mean our influence or relevancy declined, rather the official number of paid copies we touted decreased slowly. To the outside world, that perpetuated a false narrative that we were declining in influence. I guess newspapers were the first victim in the era of “fake news.”
Even though we could cite growing online traffic, many advertisers just didn’t see the value of pageviews or unique visitors like they did paid subscribers and verified readers. Something had to change, and beginning this week it will.
We are altering how we offer access to our content, our most valuable commodity. First, there is a need and a place for free content. We are the keeper of the public trust and there is just some news that we should share, free of charge. Weather alerts, emergency notices such as boil orders, road closures and other public safety issues will always be free and available in front of the paywall. The paywall is what separates free content on our website from content only accessible to paid subscribers.
We will include a few articles a week that are timely in nature and would be irrelevant if we waited to publish them. Also, as a matter of public record, obituaries will also remain free for viewing and posted each day as we receive them.
However, everything else will be behind the paywall, accessible only by subscribers. Currently, if you subscribe you get full access, meaning a print edition delivered to your home, access to all content on our website and access to the e-edition to view on your digital device.
Moving forward, if you don’t pay to subscribe, you will only see a small portion of the weekly news we produce. Our content, except for those few areas I mentioned, are going into lockdown.
At Murfin’s Market or Rosie Joe’s Café, you cannot walk in and fill a basket or eat a chicken dinner and skip out on the tab without getting a visit from Officer Friendly.
We are no different, we must protect the franchise and our franchise is local news content and effective advertising. Our content has value and we must remind readers of that value daily.
Ask area non-profits and service clubs about our value. Routinely notice of food drives, requests for donations, fundraisers and other information is reported free of charge on behalf of these organizations. That information reaches thousands of people in Christian County.
If our newspaper were not in print to help get the word out, how would that happen? What would it cost charities to advertise through the mail or other media that charge? The short answer is “a lot.” If they had to spend more to market their needs and good deeds, that would result in less money going to the purpose of their charity.
If not for the local paper, who would report on the accomplishments of youth in academics or sport? Who would inform you of elections, candidates or government? Where could you go to make sure you were notified of changes to services, tax rates or zoning requirements? Who would be the watchdog guarding against corruption? Have you seen how many citizens attend most school board and alderman meetings? Many just take these functions for granted until they are gone.
Sure, almost every organization has a Facebook page and a website, but we consolidate many of these in one place for you weekly, keeping you up to speed like no one else. We keep you connected to Ozark, Nixa and the rest of Christian County like no other news agency.
I am committed to making sure the Christian County Headliner News is strong for decades to come, and sometimes that means making difficult business decisions. This was not one of them, however. Our content is quite valuable and we appreciate our readers and patrons who agree.