Star to charge for online content

Dateline: Mon 14 May 2012

Here is the email that went out from Bobby King, president of the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild, regarding more changes coming for the Indy Star. I've heard online content will no longer be free as of June.


Subject: A note about more changes

Friends,
I wanted to write to you now because we are on the cusp of more dramatic changes in the months ahead and it’s important that you understand everything that’s going on. We’re about to get a new editor, a new organizational chart, a new page design operation and even a new newsroom. If all that wasn’t enough, last week you heard Star Publisher Karen Crotchfelt describe our new business model – one that means, for our web audience, the free lunch is about over. 
In the simplest terms, this is a make-or-break moment for The Indianapolis Star. It’s crunch time. If we fail, our business and the jobs we love may not be here much longer. If we succeed, we might just have dug ourselves out of this hole our industry has been in for several years.
So, you might be wondering, what’s my task in this crucial hour? To put it bluntly, it is to be ready to change and adapt and evolve yet again. Your viability as an employee here depends on it. And I’m not just talking in the global sense of we all sink or swim together. I’m talking about whether you as an individual will remain as a part of The Star in the coming months and years. 
The fact is that there are so few of us left to do this important work that every person must be a vital and able contributor. The publisher is looking up and down our operation to see who is up to the challenges in front of us and who is not – that includes both management and rank-and-file staff. Expect to see more managerial changes in the months ahead. Expect, too, to see that some from our own ranks will be pushed to improve or shown the exit. It is my belief that the next job cuts won’t be for cost reduction purposes. It is my belief they will be pinpoint terminations, made as the publisher decides that certain people aren’t up to the task.
As we move ahead, if you are asked to learn a different skill set, do it. If you are asked to rethink how you’ve always done things, do it. If you see gaps in your own skill set or areas where you’re weak, ask for the training that will help you master them. If there’s a training session being offered, attend it. 
The Guild has been pressing the point to management that most of you are willing to adapt, but that it is management’s role to make the appropriate training available. Just as important, it’s important that they communicate to us when training is available. Some opportunities get missed simply because we’re not aware of them. If there’s training that you need but haven’t seen available, ask for it. Both Todd Moore (ext. 6219) and Alvie Lindsay (ext. 6385) assure me they’re willing to help find the training opportunities you need. 
Through all of this, we will be here to ensure that your rights under the contract are protected and respected. But, given our depleted numbers, we need capable people in every position. Our survival – and thus our ability to continue producing good journalism -- depends on it.
It’s crucial too that you listen to what your supervisors are telling you about how your job must evolve. Copy editors must be willing to dive in and edit online copy. Sportswriters must continue moving toward analysis and personality profiles rather than traditional game stories. All of us must go beyond getting comfortable with social media. We’ve got to be sophisticated in how we use it.
All of this sounds a bit ominous and a bit challenging. But it’s the reality of the times in which we work. Anyone who isn’t willing to keep up should honestly reconsider your future prospects in this business. That’s just tough love. 
Already we are seeing examples of people adapting and evolving.  Mike Wells’ work covering the Pacers -- moving more into game analysis than game retelling -- is one example. Chris Sims’ growth from a paraprofessional into an online editor is another. Matt Detrich’s willingness to grow from an award-winning still photographer to someone who just made heart-wrenching video about the Southern Indiana tornado is another. And there are many, many more. 
There is another reason to be hopeful. This new content subscription model is risky, yes. But its key element – asking people to pay for what we provide them – makes some sense in ways that many of Gannett’s previous cure-alls have not. It is the biggest step yet toward moving us away from our dependence on the dodgy world of print advertising. Our publisher tells us that the early returns from our sister papers have been hopeful.  
We must not only hope that the new model works here, we’ve got to do our part to see that it does. The main thing is that we have to be open to learning, taking risks and, yes, making mistakes. With some luck, we may find that we have found the future of good journalism.

Best regards,

Bobby
Guild President

Comments

Pasquale [unverified] said:

I have no problem paying for on-line content from the Indy Star, but they have got to drastically improve the interface before I do. It is absolutely horrendous -- it's really difficult to find the stories you wish to read, and the mobile version is even worse. Whenever I pull up the Indy Star on my phone, all I see is sports news. That must be what they assume grabs the public.

2012-05-14 08:08:33

hendy [Member] said:

With luck, they'll change their CMS when they do this. Barring a reasonable CMS, as Pasquale cites, this is a disaster landing on a spot marked X.

There is little added value to the content of The Star. Charging for it can be done if you're the NYT or SFGate or Boston.com. The Star is none of these.

It's an uphill battle. I wish all, the very best of luck.

2012-05-14 10:05:07

George Stuteville [unverified] said:

If you haven't seen the story Bobby wrote about the tornado earlier this spring in southeastern Indiana, then you need to.

Great writing.

The video, narrated by Bobby and produced by Matt, is beyond good in the production and story-telling.

2012-05-14 10:35:06

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

Sounds to me as if the captain of the Titanic is in a kitchen drawer, hunting furiously, and yelling: "Hey, if I can just find that Super Glue, I think we may be able to fix this thing!"

2012-05-14 13:02:45

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

Yes, I glanced thru the tornado story. But, yawn!
That happened more than a month ago!
Is The Star a daily newspaper or a magazine wanna be?

2012-05-15 14:28:04

citizen x [unverified] said:

All of what they offer is available free in other areas. The national and state news is available other places. The local news, which should be their strong point (and is no longer,) is available on the local tv sites.

The paper is now a vehicle to deliver advertising to readers, as opposed to content. Because the rates the paper charges advertisers is based on circulation and/or online hits, they should pay readers to read their product.

2012-05-15 15:08:37

escapedbeforebeinggannettized [unverified] said:

Rumor has it that the on-line will be a forced bundled buy with the newspaper print edition for those who take the Star. If that happens, they will lose a significant amount of subscribers. Newspaper readers tend to skew to an older audience. That's why older folks take the paper: some don't have the internet, some like the feel of a newspaper, for some, it is just a habit, etc. To force them to subscribe to an electronic component contradicts why they are taking the print version. To have to pay an extra amount folded in to their print subscription is not in the best interest of the current subscribers. Indystar.com is a mediocre website for all the reasons stated previously (and then some).
There's nothing worth paying for that is unique to their site. All the local tv stations have fair to pretty good websites, and for local news, weather, traffic, etc. it all can be found there. My guess is that within a year, they will back off charging for content. It has happened in other larger markets.

2012-05-16 20:49:54

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

Oh, so I guess we're going to have to pay to see those "breasty" photos of Yuppies partying at The Vogue, 8 Seconds Saloon, etc., on The Star's website?

Count me out.

2012-05-17 12:14:08

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