Like many other newspapers across the country, the News Sentinel will begin charging for digital content sometime next year. The strategy was discussed by top executives of the E.W. Scripps Co., which owns the newspaper, during a recent conference with industry analysts.
The strategy, which likely will involve selling print-and-digital bundles as well as digital-only subscriptions, will begin rolling out at Scripps papers in early 2013, with all of the company's newspapers charging for digital products by the third or fourth quarter of the year, according to Tim Stautberg, senior vice president and head of the newspaper division.
The timetable for the News Sentinel's roll-out hasn't been worked out yet. The newspaper has a growing suite of digital products including three websites (knoxnews.com, govolsxtra.com and knoxville.com), an electronic replica edition for web and iPad, and apps for iPhones and Android smartphones. Most recently, the newspaper launched an app designed especially for the iPad.
All those products are now being distributed for free, but Scripps CEO Rich Boehne says "greatly diminishing the valuable content we give away for free" is essential to improving the newspapers' bottom line, according to a posting on CincyBizBlog. Scripps is based in Cincinnati, OH.
News&Tech, an industry publication, reports that more than 300 newspapers in America now charge for digital content, and hundreds more are expected to follow suit in the near future.
Stand by for updates. While some readers will grumble about the transition, charging for digital content is the best bet for sustaining the paper's newsgathering operations in the face of declining advertising revenue.
We know, of course, that the strategy only will be successful if our content is compelling enough to make people want to subscribe. So over the next year, boosting the quality of our digital offerings will be a top priority.
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