Michael J. Klingensmith: A new approach to subscriptions to fit our modern, digital world

Following an industry trend, the Star Tribune will begin to offer digital subscriptions to content on websites, mobile sites, smart phones and the iPad. Subscribers and casual visitors can still read us for free.

Like our readers, I am a big fan of daily newspapers in all their formats. I came back to Minnesota last year to be publisher of the Star Tribune because I believed in the potential for newspapers, especially the Star Tribune.

After nearly two years on the job, I'm happy to report that the Star Tribune is rewriting the story about the future of the newspaper. It is not a fading medium, but rather an evolving one with great prospects.

We have tremendous strength in our newsroom, and the opportunity that the digital world is opening up to us is exciting.

Our future success is critical to us, not just as a business, but as an important institution in the life of our community. And it's important personally to me and all of our employees; it is our hometown newspaper, after all.

Today, our content is in demand 24 hours a day. Digital visitors and visits are up double digits year over year, and our print circulation is also showing growth, particularly on Sundays. Still, there is considerable work to be done to position the Star Tribune for the future.

For most of this year, we have been preparing for significant changes in how we deliver content digitally and when we will charge for that content.

We want subscribers to be able to access Star Tribune content where, when and how they choose, whether it's with a printed paper over breakfast or watching a video on a smart phone during the seventh-inning stretch at Target Field.

We also want readers to have a consistent experience across all our platforms.

In April, we relaunched a completely redesigned and modern website, followed by a redesign of our mobile site.

In August, we introduced a complimentary subscription offering of a Star Tribune app for the iPad. (I've been using the app since it was in development. It's a great marriage of content with technology.)

Later this week, we will introduce a Star Tribune news app for the iPhone and for Android phones, in conjunction with a new subscription offer for digital access to Star Tribune content.

We will no longer give away all of our content on digital platforms for free, although most subscribers and casual readers will still be able to visit our website and mobile sites without charge.

Under our new digital access model, visitors to the Star Tribune website and mobile website and to our iPhone and Android apps will be able to read up to 20 stories per month. A digital subscription will be required to read more.

(Visitors can still browse headlines, classified ads, and photo and video galleries.) When visitors reach their 20-story limit, they will be invited to subscribe via easy on-screen prompts or to come back the next month.

The vast majority of our visitors will not be affected by these changes.

If you subscribe to the printed paper for two days a week or more, you will continue to have unrestricted access to all digital products, including the iPad app, as part of your current subscription.

If you subscribe only to the Sunday paper and want complete access to all of our digital products daily, you'll be invited to add unlimited digital access to your subscription for an introductory period for 29 cents additional per week and 99 cents additional per week thereafter.

Those who don't want a printed paper but who want unlimited access to our content across websites, mobile devices and the iPad will be offered an introductory rate of 99 cents a week for the first 10 weeks and $1.99 per week thereafter.

We've done extensive modeling of this plan, and we anticipate that the majority of users will not reach their monthly free-story limit. Those who do reach the limit will be people who access content frequently and with depth.

We believe that asking them to pay for that access is the right thing to do for our business and is fairer to our paying subscribers.

These changes are the result of considerable thought and research about the best path to the future, and they follow a trend that is increasingly being adopted at newspapers around the country, from the New York Times to the Modesto Bee, as the industry works to reinvent its business model and keep quality journalism available in communities.

We're proud of the depth and breadth of our reporting and content, which far exceeds that of any news organization in the state. We have a staff of more than 260 journalists who do everything from gathering stats from high school football games to covering our congressional delegation in Washington.

In addition, we subscribe to the country's leading information services to provide readers with a complete package of news, photography and video from Wall Street to D.C. and from Tehran to Shanghai. The cost of our news staff plus all of our syndicated content exceeds $24.5 million a year.

We believe our content has tremendous value because our loyal print subscribers have told us so repeatedly over the years. With our recent enhancements, we believe that our content has even more value now. We're confident that our new digital subscribers will see the value, too.

Thank you for reading the Star Tribune.



    Whether you are a current subscriber or a new subscriber, adding unlimited digital access is a simple process. You can follow the prompts on the website, mobile site or appropriate mobile app once you've hit your story limit, or you can go to this web address now and follow the prompts:

    www.startribune.com/ digitalaccess

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