Vermont paper charges for online edition

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(Host) A Central Vermont weekly has become the first Vermont newspaper to charge for its online edition. While the paper hasn’t seen a decline in its six-thousand subscribers, it doesn’t want to lose paying customers to the internet.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports:

(Zind) Herald of Randolph Publisher and Editor M. Dickey Drysdale sits at a 1930s-era roll-top desk in the Randolph office the paper has occupied for more than a century. There is a feeling that time moves slowly inside these walls. But the Herald is about to break new ground for a Vermont newspaper.

Until now no Vermont daily or weekly has charged to read current issues online, although a few charge for archived articles. Beginning this week, the Randolph paper’s online readers will have to pay a thirty-four dollar annual subscription rate. Back issues of the paper will remain free.

It’s too early to tell how readers feel about the change. Two readers have taken out online subscriptions so far. And two have signed up for mail subscriptions now that they can’t read current issues on line. Drysdale also received an email from one unhappy online reader.

(Drysdale) “And she said, ‘well, has it come to this?’ And I’m sure I’ll get some more of those. Yes, I think it has come to this. I hope it’s come to this. I’d like to get online subscribers who pay us for a convenient service.”

(Zind) The Herald’s Website is maintained by Our in Clifton Springs, New York. Steve Larson heads the company, which runs Websites for sixty small newspapers like the Herald. Fifteen of them currently require online readers to take out a subscription to read the current edition.

(Larson) “The well known bad news is the numbers aren’t going to be huge.”

(Zind) Larson says the number of online subscribers is typically less than four percent of regular subscribers.

Many papers charge for archived articles online but provide the current edition free. Larson says his idea of doing just the opposite has more advantages.

(Larson) “The advantage of that to the newspaper is it does protect your newsstand sales.”

(Zind) Larson says another advantage to his approach is Herald readers who don’t want to pay for a subscription will still be able to read each issue for free. They’ll just have to wait until it’s no longer the current issue of the paper.

Herald of Randolph publisher, Drysdale, says as increasing numbers of readers get their news from the Internet instead of the newsstand, newspapers have to figure out a way to make money from their online editions.

(Drysdale) “This is kind of an experiment. If it doesn’t work, we won’t do it.”

(Zind) Drysdale says his paper’s Website records about 200,000 hits a month.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind in Randolph.

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