Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/3/2015 (2178 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The longtime reader on the other end of phone wanted to talk about the price increase to his Free Press.
So we chatted about the costs of running a big-city newsroom, the economic challenges facing the media and lessons learned from U.S. newspapers that ended in bankruptcy.
But then he hit me with a question that stopped me dead in my tracks: "So what you are saying to me is you expect loyal subscribers to pay more in order to subsidize those who only want to read you for free online?"
It clearly pays to listen to Free Press readers, because I learned something in that conversation that’s shaped how we’ll ensure we continue to deliver quality journalism for our audience, whether they read us in print, on their desktop at work or on their smartphone.
And that lesson is that defining ourselves as a newspaper — and only assigning a value to the news we publish in print seven days a week — not only sells ourselves short, but also short-changes a big chunk of our readership.
So this 143-year-old institution is about to change. In a big way.
No longer will we see ourselves through the prism of a newspaper. Instead, our existence will be determined by the stuff our newsroom produces — the news, the columns, the features — that reward you for your investment in time and money to read us.
So, let’s talk for a moment about that investment of time and money in the Free Press. If you are already a home subscriber or subscribe to our e-edition, the change will be pretty much seamless. You already enjoy full access to everything we publish in print and online, and your all-access pass will continue on all our platforms.
But for those who don’t have a subscriber relationship with the Free Press, you are going to have two options. First off, there will be a package that gives you the same all-you-can-read access — plus, we’ll throw in a free Saturday paper delivered to your home. But our second option is one that breaks new ground in Canada, by charging you only for what you have read and requires no minimum purchases or any prepayments. Even better, we will be offering you a money-back guarantee if you don’t like what you paid to read.
In other words, you won’t have to become a subscriber to consume our content; you will be able to dine à la carte in much the same way iTunes allows you to buy what you want, when you want.
Beyond offering micropayments, the new digital platforms we are building will be fundamentally different from what competing media news sites are able to offer. As foreshadowed in my New Year’s message to readers (online at wfp.to/newyear), our redesigned website will put you, the reader, at the centre, to create a fundamentally different experience for everyone. Not only will you be able to personalize your reading experience, you will also be able to tuck away articles to be enjoyed later. Our website will recognize you when you return on any device so that we are always serving up fresh news for your eyes. And that ability to individualize your Free Press experience won’t be limited by the subscription. For instance, the Free Press you read online will be unique to you, while the Free Press other family members enjoy will be different too, even if you share a subscription.
The success of the Free Press since 1872 has always been tied to readers seeing value in what our newsroom produces. In 2015, that same formula remains, even as our newsroom redefines ourself by ditching the rhythms and rigors tied to making deadline for the print edition each and every night.
Over the next several weeks, I’ll be walking you through the features of this new value proposition for our readers. I’ll be making myself available for questions and answer sessions. I’ll even be inviting you to take our new digital products for a test drive before our official launch.
Paul Samyn is the Free Press editor.
Paul Samyn has been part of the Free Press newsroom for more than a quarter century, working his way up after starting as a rookie reporter in 1988.