Burlington Free Press Changes Subscription, Format

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(Host) Vermont’s largest newspaper is planning big changes in the way it presents and charges for its news reports.

VPR’s Ross Sneyd explains.

(Sneyd) The Burlington Free Press refers to itself as Free Press Media now. And beginning in June, the 185-year-old Gannett-owned newspaper will give new meaning to that phrase.

(Kilian) "We’re not simply a newspaper but a media organization that delivers news and content online as well as in print."

(Sneyd) That’s Mike Kilian, associate editor at the Free Press. He says his media organization is preparing for three big initiatives.

First, it’s investing nearly $2.5 million to refurbish its 45-year-old printing press, which will be retrofitted for a second initiative: The Free Press will switch from printing its traditional broadsheet newspaper to a "tall tab." That’s a tabloid a little larger than what you’d find from the Boston Herald or New York Daily News.

(Kilian) "We believe that print is alive and well and has a future. The key is to make it as distinct as possible from online and distinct from what it has been traditionally."

(Sneyd) That means the print edition of the Free Press will no longer focus on breaking news.

Instead, what Kilian calls the "news of now" will find a home on the newspaper’s Website, burlingtonfreepress.com.

And, finally, the Free Press is implementing a pay wall, charging its readers for what they get online.

(Kilian) "People understand that there’s no such thing as a free lunch and there’s value to the content that good news organizations produce and that they’re willing to pay for that, particularly with the ease of use now where you can be at your kids’ soccer game with a smart phone in your hand and you can keep up to date with local news being produced by your local newspaper."

(Sneyd) In June, when the new tabloid-size newspaper starts rolling off the refurbished presses, the Free Press will charge a subscription rate for both its newspaper and burlingtonfreepress.com.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

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