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Nancy Barnes: No more online delays for print subscribers

  • Article by: NANCY BARNES
  • Editor
  • September 19, 2010 - 8:21 AM

For more than a year, readers of the printed paper have been seeing Sunday exclusives throughout their Star Tribune. These are stories that are available only in print until Wednesdays, when they become available to our online readers for free.

While many readers (and advertisers) thanked us for rewarding paying customers, other subscribers told me that they wanted to be able to read stories online, too, especially if they were traveling.

Now they can.

Early last week, we launched a simple method for print and electronic subscribers to access our premium content on StarTribune.com, including Vikings coverage and the Sunday exclusives. If you are a subscriber, you need only document your status once to gain access to any content that has been restricted. The Sunday exclusives will remain behind the subscriber wall until Wednesdays, when they become free to nonsubscribers. This is not exactly the same thing as a paywall, a technique that is proliferating at news sites across the country, but it is a step in that direction as we look for ways to renew our business model. Over time, we expect to put more premium content behind the subscriber wall, and we may eventually cease to release it to nonsubscribers on Wednesdays at all. Meanwhile, the label you see on the premium content in the Sunday paper will change, as the stories are no longer "print" exclusives.

In recent years, there has been a movement in journalism toward more aggregated news, community-provided content, philanthropy-funded sites, blogs and other new forms of journalism. While all of this has a role in the rapidly changing media landscape, it does not come close to providing the type of coverage that a professional newsgathering organization does.

Our staff members fan out every day to courtrooms, schoolhouses, police and fire stations, the statehouse, the nation's capital, professional sports stadiums, playhouses and little-league fields. They sort through court filings, police dockets and legislative bills; listen to earnings calls, and conduct hundreds of interviews a day. They shoot photographs, edit videos, design news pages and constantly update StarTribune.com -- all to bring you the most complete, up-to-date news and information we can find. Some of this work is easy, but most of it takes relentless footwork, probing questions and the ability to analyze and write.

This type of work simply cannot be replicated by community journalists and bloggers who work for free. And it is not cheap to produce.

Yet, it's this type of sophisticated reporting that allows us to bring you Dick Meryhew's front-page story today about Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner, who is on a mission to find an answer to the two-decades-old question of what happened to Jacob Wetterling. Meryhew, who has covered this case as a journalist as long as Sanner has as a law-enforcement official, spent days in the sheriff's St. Cloud office so he could explain just why it is so important to bring closure to this case. Our investment in content also allows us to fund the ongoing series Chris Serres has been writing, looking at holes in the state's debt-collection laws that allow some consumers to be harassed in shocking ways. Thanks to Serres, I'm betting that by this time next year some of those loopholes will be closed. I'm also confident that these are stories you will find only in your Star Tribune.

My point is simply this: The Star Tribune Media Co. is spending millions of dollars each year to produce content that serves readers, whether they consume that content in print, on our website, on our mobile site or in video. Our subscribers are more important to us than ever, and we are taking measures to make sure we reward them for their loyalty.

Thank you for reading the Star Tribune.

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