IBJOpinion

MORRIS: Charging for online content makes sense

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MorrisThe headline on page two of the July 29 Indianapolis Star read, “For The Star and its readers, changes ahead in changing times.”

Karen Crotchfelt, president and publisher of Star Media, alerted readers to changes aimed at limiting free access to news on the IndyStar.com website and on smartphones and tablets. Effective Sept. 1, nonsubscribers will be able to read up to 20 articles a month before needing to subscribe.

Times are definitely changing. Through my role here at IBJ Media and as president of the board of the Hoosier State Press Association, I field a lot of questions about the future of newspapers. Are there going to be newspapers in five years? Can newspapers stay in business? Is journalism going to disappear, leaving us to get all our information from blogs, social media and other unreliable sources? And the list goes on.

I want to offer my perspective on where the Indianapolis Business Journal falls in this digital metamorphosis. I believe our company is a small microcosm of the entire industry. First, yes, I believe the printed newspaper will be around for many years to come. I do believe smart newspaper operators can stay in business and make a profit. And, yes, I do believe journalism will continue to be a mainstay. I readily admit it is harder to sort through fact and fiction on the Internet. That’s why you should rely on quality news brands you know and trust.

I haven’t viewed our organization as a newspaper company for a long while. Rather, we are a news and information company that distributes our unique local business content via newspapers, e-newsletters, online websites, iPhone and Android smartphones.

In the next few months, apps for the iPad and other tablet devices will be among our offerings, and we stand ready to look at new forms of distribution as new formats develop. We break news online daily, seven days a week. Yes, our printed newspaper is still the most important form of distribution of our information, but digital platforms continue to grow every year.

I don’t believe our business is print or digital. It’s print AND digital. The successful business model today blends the two platforms and delivers news to readers when, where and how they want it. Each year, more of our subscribers opt for a combination print and digital subscription.

Today at IBJ, we publish more news online on a daily basis than we do in the weekly newspaper—by a large margin. The newspaper coverage is more in-depth. However, if you don’t keep up with our online coverage, you miss a lot. Currently, you need a paid subscription to get our newspaper content online. That is protected, premium content. But all the other news we produce digitally is free. A business model that provides mostly free digital content can’t continue in the long term.

Which brings us back to The Indianapolis Star’s new metered business model and why I think it’s the right strategy for today. Many publications are employing this new approach. And yet many folks today don’t think they should have to pay for online news. Everybody wants everything for free.

Of course, it costs a lot of money to produce great journalistic news and information. It doesn’t cost much for someone to sit down at a computer and blog their opinion. If you want great, unique content online that is of true value, you’re going to have to pay something for it.

The Indianapolis Star’s unique online content has value. IBJ’s unique online content has value. There needs to be an investment by readers commensurate with the value received. IBJ will be announcing online access changes of its own by year-end. In the meantime, I want to say thank you for reading IBJ in print, online at ibj.com, via e-newsletters in your inbox, and on your mobile and tablet devices.•

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Morris is publisher of IBJ. His column appears every other week. To comment on this column, send e-mail to gmorris@ibj.com.

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  • However....
    I agree that good contact has value. The IBJ, often has great content, which I pay for. However, the Star's content has deteriorated to where its become a local "Facebook" social reporting site, and has very little original and valued content. Most of their content is re-hashed from other gannet publications, and or Reuters. (who has the majority of their writers outsourced overseas). Where is the investigative journalism of the award winning star of my youth? Where is the original content, in detail online? If you want to see an online site worth paying for, look at the WSJ or NYT. The star is a laughing stock compared to them. No, its not worth paying for IMHO. These days, we can get important local news from the TV stations' websites, and national news from a thousand sources online. Until the Star goes back to their award winning journalism of years ago, its not worth the money. (and their online ads and cookies are maddening, and often lock up computers)

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  1. The east side does have potential...and I have always thought Washington Scare should become an outlet mall. Anyone remember how popular Eastgate was? Well, Indy has no outlet malls, we have to go to Edinburgh for the deep discounts and I don't understand why. Jim is right. We need a few good eastsiders interested in actually making some noise and trying to change the commerce, culture and stereotypes of the East side. Irvington is very progressive and making great strides, why can't the far east side ride on their coat tails to make some changes?

  2. Boston.com has an article from 2010 where they talk about how Interactions moved to Massachusetts in the year prior. http://www.boston.com/business/technology/innoeco/2010/07/interactions_banks_63_million.html The article includes a link back to that Inside Indiana Business press release I linked to earlier, snarkily noting, "Guess this 2006 plan to create 200-plus new jobs in Indiana didn't exactly work out."

  3. I live on the east side and I have read all your comments. a local paper just did an article on Washington square mall with just as many comments and concerns. I am not sure if they are still around, but there was an east side coalition with good intentions to do good things on the east side. And there is a facebook post that called my eastside indy with many old members of the eastside who voice concerns about the east side of the city. We need to come together and not just complain and moan, but come up with actual concrete solutions, because what Dal said is very very true- the eastside could be a goldmine in the right hands. But if anyone is going damn, and change things, it is us eastside residents

  4. Please go back re-read your economics text book and the fine print on the February 2014 CBO report. A minimum wage increase has never resulted in a net job loss...

  5. The GOP at the Statehouse is more interested in PR to keep their majority, than using it to get anything good actually done. The State continues its downward spiral.

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