by Melanie Jongsma, Publisher
LANSING, Ill. (March 21, 2022) – When we launched in 2017, The Lansing Journal was a free newspaper, in print and online. A big reason for that was our partnership with the Shopper. They were a local print newspaper that was funded through advertising and delivered free of charge to homes in the community. So free was what people were used to.
People expect The Lansing Journal to be free as well.
But The Lansing Journal is a different kind of newspaper than the Shopper. The Shopper is primarily a sales paper. The advertisements and classifieds and garage sale announcements take priority, and articles are included if there’s room left over. At The Lansing Journal, news is the priority. The ads we sell and the funds we raise all support the news.
The news is free, but it costs. That is, we don’t require people to pay for the news they read, but it costs us money to provide it.
Obviously, we need to cover those costs. So we continually experiment with new revenue ideas to keep funding the news we provide. Sometimes we try new forms of advertising. Sometimes we try new ways of asking readers to become supporters. Sometimes things work for a while, and then they stop working, so we try something else.
The purpose of all those experiments is to ensure that we have the money we need to report, publish, and deliver local news every day to anyone who wants it.
A familiar idea
Our latest experiment involves subscription prices. People are familiar with the subscription model — in fact, people who remember the original Lansing Journal remember that they had to pay to receive it. And people who subscribe to other newspapers have told me they pay $15, $25, or even $60 every month for those subscriptions.
So I’ve wondered about charging a subscription price for The Lansing Journal.
At the same time, putting local news behind a paywall doesn’t feel right to me. When we publish an article about the need for poll workers or Winnie Edwards’ influence on the library or a Boy Scout adventure hike, or the Bulldogs winning the national championship, I want the world to be able to see and share those stories. Those stories are important to our community.
An experiment in pricing
So here’s what I’d like to try: a choose-your-own-subscription-price model. I think this model might help remind readers that there is a cost to providing local news. At the same time, it helps ensure that the cost is not prohibitive for anyone. If each reader chooses a subscription price that’s comfortable, we can all continue to enjoy local news for many years.
Support at any level is welcome!
Here’s the first draft of the form I’m testing. Will you take part in this experiment? If you are not already supporting this newspaper, will you choose your own subscription price today?
Choose your price
By the way, those suggested subscription amounts are based on our 2021 expenses, divided by the 1,431 stories we published last year, which gave us an average cost per story of $54.69. The original stories our reporters write cost more than that, and the news releases we publish from other sources cost less. Still, $54.69 includes reporting, publishing, and delivering each local news item to your email inbox every day.
P.S. I also welcome your feedback about the form — was anything confusing? Off-putting? Unnecessary? Feel free to email me directly:
- Email [email protected]
I appreciate your input.