“The news should be free.”
This is a sentiment you run into on social media from time to time, especially if you are a journalist posting news that is not free.
I respectfully disagree. Yes, local news is important, sometimes vital. It’s for that very reason that it makes sense to put it behind a paywall.
The Delaware Independent has been offering free articles since it began in August, but the plan has always been to start offering subscriber-only stories eventually. First, I wanted to get the word out about this new venture and give people a chance to see what kind of stories the Independent has to offer.
Beginning next week, some of our stories will be available to paying subscribers only. Eventually, most of our stories will be behind a paywall.
As a former co-worker of mine has noted, the more important news is, the more outraged people tend to get that they have to pay to read it.
Again, the Bretzger Theory on News-Payment Outrage is confirmed. The more important the news, the more outrage there is at being asked to pay for it. pic.twitter.com/Va5U4MUxCT— William Bretzger (@billbretz) June 26, 2021
And who can blame them? Newspapers have been offering free online articles for decades, a business move that is a bit baffling to put it charitably. Newspapers have also, not shockingly, been going out of business for decades.
This logic of a free product does not work for print copies of newspapers, of course, or pretty much any other product you might want. Those interested in experimenting could try grabbing a couple of cans of soup off their local grocery store shelf and walking out with them. “Of course I didn’t pay,” they can tell the cashier. “I have to eat or I’ll starve!”
(I don’t recommend doing this.)
It’s true that online news is not as costly to produce as a print paper. You don’t need a printing press or delivery drivers. But websites and other tools of the trade do cost money, even though it’s not as much, and it takes a lot of time and energy to produce online news just the same as print news. This is my full time job, and I also don’t ask freelance writers to work for free.
Print newspapers always made a lot of money with ads, though, so why can’t a digital site do the same? Suffice it to say that if digital ads paid the bills, I’d probably still be working at a traditional newspaper and not typing this column. You can read more about that here.
I appreciate everyone who has signed up for an email subscription so far, paying or not. For those who have the free version, you don’t need to take any action or worry that you’ll suddenly start being charged. You’ll just start seeing fewer emails from The Delaware Independent and if you go to the website you won’t be able to read the subscriber-only stories there either.
If you follow our social media pages, you may start seeing fewer links to our stories there as well. I get that it can be frustrating to click on a link and hit the paywall, so the plan is to just let readers know that the story is available and direct them to the site if they’re interested.
For now, some stories including the weekly roundup of local news and events will continue to be free. Also, if you can’t afford $5 a month, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me about your situation; we may be able to work something out.
We offer different membership options, including the free version I mentioned earlier. You can sign up for the Independent’s free emails, and will never be charged unless you decide later to opt for a paying plan.
If $5 a month for news seems like a lot, consider other products you buy regularly like coffee, groceries or haircuts that cost significantly more. The way inflation’s going right now, we might have to also add items like gum and paper clips to that list.
Again, thanks for your interest in the Delaware Independent. We’d love to have you as a paying subscriber.
Read more about our subscription options here.
A sampling of our work: