Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Will You Pay for Roanoke Newspaper Online?
I understand that Roanoke's local daily, to which I have never had a paid subscription, will begin charging for its online product soon. When I left the paper several years ago to "retire" (that's an official term, not a reality), my free subscription was cancelled the day after "retirement." I called the publisher to ask what was up with that and she reminded me that I had been fired by the paper in 1981 and people who were fired didn't get free papers. I reminded her that the paper hired me back when it bought the Blue Ridge Business Journal and I worked there for 10 more years. She said that didn't count. By my reckoning, I'm the only "retired" employee in the paper's (at least recent) history who didn't get a free paper.
My understanding is that current employees have been told they'll have to pay a reduced rate for a subscription if they continue getting the paper. Among the options will be an online subscription.
Anyhow, details aside, I occasionally go to the paper's website to read stories that are interesting and even use them on my blog (two of them just today, if you'll scroll down). So, will I subscribe when that eventuality faces me?
I will say, in defense of the local daily, that its purchase by Berkshire Hathaway, which owns several other Virginia papers, has led to much, much better Virginia coverage because of the sharing of resources. I will also suggest that the cutting of news staff in Roanoke has left a bare-bones crew of some very good, very overworked reporters who simply can't cover it all.
The question, as I will pose it, is not whether I will subscribe, but whether you will. The paper's circulation of its base product has been declining at an alarming rate for several years and it is my understanding that weekday numbers are below 70,000 subscribers for the first time since perhaps the 1950s. Online readership is up, but that will almost certainly take a sharp drop when the paper begins charging.
So, here's the question: Will you pay for an online subscription to the paper when that time comes (likely later this year)?