LLOYD GRAY: Assigning value to what we do

LLOYD GRAY

LLOYD GRAY

Many times in recent years, people have told me, “I used to subscribe to the Journal, but now I read you online. I can get all I want there, and it’s free.”

It’s an understandable response to the choice we, like most newspapers, put before our readers. While many stories and features that run in the printed Daily Journal don’t appear on Djournal.com, you can find the bulk of our local content there. So it shouldn’t be surprising that some former subscribers – and an even larger number of potential subscribers – take the free option over the paid one.

Our print circulation is still strong, but our online audience has been growing exponentially. That’s good for us – we want as many people as possible to read us, in print or online.

But we still get the overwhelming share of our revenue from our printed newspaper. We’ve got a great online audience, but it hasn’t translated into anywhere close to the revenue needed to finance the news content we provide. While we’re working on closing the print-online revenue advertising gap, equity is still a long way off.

The newspaper industry made a big mistake back in the late 1990s by giving our product away free online. We conditioned people to expect an unsustainable business model.

It’s expensive to produce the news and features in the Daily Journal. We have to pay salaries and benefits, equipment and supplies. mileage, travel and assorted other costs for 36 news, sports, features and photo staffers who gather, report, edit and present the news. The Associated Press and other outside services we use aren’t cheap, either.

We believe what our Journal staffers produce has value to you or you wouldn’t be reading it. Frankly, we’ve given it away for free too long.

In order to sustain the level of content you’ve come to expect from the Daily Journal, all of our readers – website and mobile as well as print – will be asked to pay for it starting Nov. 1.

We’ll be far from the first to do this. Most daily newspapers either have already instituted some form of digital pricing or will soon.

Our “paywall” won’t be absolute. But you’ll have only five free stories a month, and after that, you’ll have to pay to see more. We’ll make an exception for major breaking stories that are updated throughout the day.

We’ll have a complete subscription package that will give you everything – the printed newspaper as well as access to our website and mobile apps – for $10.75 a month. We think that’s the best deal overall.

But if you want just our web products, you can pay $6 a month and have complete access to those or $10 to have the replica electronic edition of each day’s paper included. However you want it, we’ll provide it – at a cost that will still be less than most comparably sized newspapers.

This is not a choice but a necessity for us. You count on us to provide accurate, reliable and empowering news and information that helps you connect with your community. We’re committed to doing an even better job of meeting your needs in the future, but it’s an expensive proposition.

We strongly believe that newspapers have a bright future. And while we fully expect ink on newsprint to be around for many years to come, we realize there are some news consumers, especially among the young, for whom digital is the only way of life, which makes it all the more important we – as any business would – give them a good value and make them paying customers.

The simple truth is that free content ultimately would mean less or no content because the revenue wouldn’t be there to support it. That’s the bottom line – as directly and honestly as we can state it.

Lloyd Gray is executive editor of the Daily Journal. Contact him at (662) 678-1579 or lloyd.gray@journalinc.com

  • TWBDB

    No problem

  • FrereJocques

    If I’m going to pay for your website, you need to get someone to build one that works better. Those of us who post here regularly–and I am one of them–are tired of getting the page refreshed right in the middle of typing a comment, and losing everything we’ve entered up to that point. I set my browser to not refresh the web page without my permission–and you found a way to circumvent even that. Not cool. I realize you want to earn the maximum income from your webpage, but you gotta accommodate the users if you want us to stick around and pay you for the privilege.

    BTW, I already DO subscribe to your printed paper–I have for years.

    • http://djournal.com/ Chris Elkins

      Thanks for the feedback. The page refresh should only occur after 5 minutes of inactivity to load the latest content and certainly not while you are typing, scrolling, or interacting with the site. I’ve disabled the refresh now; the idle functionality works on our test platforms but we may have missed some test targets and I apologize for this. I’ll reimplement the loading of new content on the pages without refreshing the page so as to not hurt the user experience. Thanks for pointing this out and I apologize for the frustration that must have caused.

      • FrereJocques

        For what it’s worth, I’m using Firefox web browser, version 24, if that’s of any help. According to the Help About, it’s the latest Firefox version.

        Thank you for your efforts!

      • TWBDB

        It most definitely refreshes in the middle of typing quite often: I’ve learned to type my response offline and enter it all at once

  • Winston Smith

    I personally won’t be paying to use this website, because the website itself is pretty terrible.. But! I hope this works out and the Daily Journal is able to turn more of a profit off of internet news. Print is dying, tradition is really the only thing keeping it going seeing as how the online format is superior in almost every way. I’m 29 years old and none of my friends subscribe to the newspaper. The cost seems very reasonable though, and if the websites interface and odd glitches are fixed I would happily pay $6 a month. If for anything, just to support a local industry.

  • Kevin

    I’m just not going to pay for a public relations vehicle for the city of Tupelo.

    • clevelandgator

      Good, no more of your belligerent ramblings. GO BACK TO SCHOOL!!!

  • Thile

    There’s no need to play the “people are bums and want stuff for free” angle. Readers and subscribers understand the need for paywalls in today’s economic climate for print media.

  • brokenboard

    It’s nice to see they deleted my comment. Possibly, they deleted it because I said it would force people to turn to other FREE local news sites and drive down their traffic and negatively affect advertising/income? Who knows.

    • FrereJocques

      WHAT “free” local news sites? There’s no such thing as “free” anymore. Any news source trying to reach the public has SOME cost attached. It might be intangible, such as an agenda or censoring of comments or selective “editing” of the news. Their web site is most likely going to run ads–LOTS of ads. That’s a “price” too, although one you can generally live with. Internet bandwidth has to be paid for by someone, and the large majority of people nowadays believe their time is worth SOMETHING.

      By and large, repeating what I said earlier, the Daily Journal does a pretty good job of reporting the news, and are about as unbiased as you can expect given the state of the media in this day and age. Now one can always argue that a source is “biased” simply because they don’t reflect a certain point of view. So maybe that’s why I think the DJ is unbiased: because I usually agree with their editorial style and viewpoints.

      • David Johnston

        Pretty sure there aren’t any broadcast stations with paywalls on their content, which opens you up to news coverage from WTVA, WCBI, WMC-TV, WREG, WAAY, WLBT and basically any local television station with a website. I only listed a handful from Memphis, Huntsville and Jackson. And nobody makes you click on ads. So yes, there are free local news sites.

  • d1comment

    Would that be Nov 1 as in two days from now..?

    • William Huffhine

      Yes d1comment. The paid content model will go live this friday, November 1st.

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  • nerakr

    For those of us who have no intention of paying for it, how will you determine we have read five articles per month? Will it be counted every time we log on, or only if we click onto something?

    • William Huffhine

      You can land on our home page as many times as you’d like. The meter only begins counting as you click on stories to read.

  • Jon

    Will the number of ads remain the same on each page once the site goes behind the paywall?

    • William Huffhine

      Good morning Jon. You will not see any changes in the few ad spaces that we have on the site.once the paid content model begins. Just as with the printed newspaper, both subscriber revenue and advertising revenue are key to our success.

  • John Snoopy Henson

    If the annoying ad’s were not at the top and on each page, I might consider paying. But I am unhappy with the paper service, we “had” been lifelong subscribers until you decided one day, to stop delivering the WHOLE paper to everyone in Lee County your own home area. I would get some ad’s, my neighbor would get different ones, my neighbor the road over would not get any ad’s or my inlaws got all the ad’s one Sunday and Wed, then the next week only part of them. I live out in northwestern part of Lee County and have complained before, I would be happy to even pay REGULAR rate, as long as I got the “whole paper”. I just recently resubscribed, for my wife who missed the paper, & have not checked to see if I am getting all the ad’s, but I know the past 12 thanksgivings through month of Christmas’s we never got all the ad’s or all the items in the paper. Then when I told the editor, all he said was sorry for YOUR problems. No solution or I’m going to investigate or anything. Its really sad that on the week of thanksgiving I have to buy three papers to get ALL the ad’s and that’s a rip-off!

    • William Huffhine

      Good afternoon John. I appreciate you sharing with us the problem you had with inserts in your home delivery paper. I will pass this information on to our production team. I do want to let you know that, in a broad sense, the decision of what inserts go where is not up to us, it’s up to the advertisers who contract with us. When they sign their advertising contrast, they choose the geographic zones that they will pay to have those inserts go into and that is the contractual basis for the payment to us. Therefore, we have to be diligent to deliver those ads where the advertiser tells us.

      In your case, though, it sounds more like a production issue on our part. You and your next door neighbor should get the same ads. Though you may get different ads in the county that subscribers in Tupelo proper receive, due to the contract with the advertiser.

      Thanks again for bringing this to our attention so we can look into it. And we’re very happy to have you back as a subscriber.

      • John Snoopy Henson

        William, I have had this same conversation before with the editor and subscription supervisor. I live out in the Lee County (LOCALLY) , I have friends who live INSIDE Guntown city limits also. I have had neighbors on my road 4 miles away from Guntown and both roads over from me all get different ad’s. Usually the Guntown City area gets about the same ad’s as Tupelo. But explain how my neighbor down road gets an office max paper bag (sales add to put whatever in paper bag to get 20% off) but me and my neighbor down road don’t, but road over gets one, then Guntown City does not, but in Baldwyn (FURTHER AWAY) all the people I know and go to church with got one. LOL that’s just plain crazy. If I am paying for a paper, I want the WHOLE paper, I understand if I was outside the REGULAR delivery zone or outside the county or outside the state, but I’m less than 15 min from your warehouse. Come on be realistic, if you are going to keep on doing the paper, especially since you have this new tool and die system that is supposed to cut down on cost. Either delivery the whole paper locally or put a notice in paper that if you want all the ad’s come by the The Journal Office in Tupelo to buy it.

        • William Huffhine

          Good evening John.

          Like I said earlier, it does sound like some of the problem could, admittedly, be on our part and I’m happy to bring it to the attention of our production manager.

          I do want to clarify that the presence of inserts in specific zones has nothing to do with proximity to our office. Those decisions are made by marketing and demographic gurus at the corporate offices of places like Office Max, Kohls, etc. who then advise their ad agencies as to what zip codes to target for the best return on their advertising investment. We then have to follow those instructions. Admittedly, we ourselves often scratch our heads and puzzle over the decisions made by those folks at their corporate offices. So, a “complete” paper for your zip plus four may have different contents than a “complete” paper a couple miles down the road.

          I do appreciate your frustration and are pleased that you’ve made us aware of it so we can look further into it. By the way, I’m the Director of Audience Development, responsible for all print and digital audience issues and customer care. Please feel free to reach out to me at bill.huffhine@journalinc.com any time I can assist you.

          • John Snoopy Henson

            But you are not understanding, if WE ARE on the SAME ROAD, we should get the same Ad’s. If you live in the city be in Guntown or Baldwyn city limits, you should get the SAME THING. But this is not so! I can challenge you to a Sunday or Wednesday Paper! From 4 random people on my road roads east and west of me, then 4 random Guntown City Residents and Baldwyn Residents. I know for a fact, that the 4 people randomly chose will get DIFFERENT ad’s and has been happening a while. If you want to know why you have less paper sales. But on a SEPERATE issue, I disagree on the ad sales. I spoke to two stores about there ad’s going to certain areas and was told that it was supposed to cover certain zip codes, which included MINE and I did not get an ad. I don’t want to keep going back and forth, I just want you to know, until you fix things like that, you will continue to get less and less sales. And you will not get anyone buying for online access. During the holidays, especially the thanksgiving ad, its not right to have different ads delivered to different people on the same road or near you. I have 8 neighbors (family) that we get together on thanksgiving day, and we always have different ads. I usually miss sears ad and best buy ad, while my mother will have them. That’s just not good business and you can’t tell me that you have never heard about this before. Also I have my email communication from a few years ago communicating about those same problems to the editor. I don’t delete emails.
            Have a Good day.

          • William Huffhine

            Good afternoon John. Yes, as for your complaint about living on the same road, this is why I have in each of my responses to you acknowledged that you may have experienced a production error on our part and thanked you for letting us know so we can look further into it. Have a great weekend.

          • GoGoldenWave

            Wow, John you need to lay off poor William. He seems to be understanding what your saying and has acknowledged that there is probably a problem on his end. I guess someone as butt hurt as you are just feel the need to pound your problems (of ads no less) into others faces. im sure mr William is the incompetent person responsible for the pay wall, but im sure even he expects to only keep about 10% of their regular online audience. And if that 10% is paying, they may be coming out ahead. I just hope hes prepared for the betrayal the community will feel when its local paper is asking them shell out more money. Sure a lot of bigger papers are doing the same thing, but they aren’t local and most local people aren’t affiliated with them. I just hope the Daily Journal can find a better way to monetize this before too much damage is done. If not, itll be interesting to see who will take their place as the local news agency. Probably will be the tv station as they seem to have more news faster then the daily journals website does. People who get the paper come to expect that, but the web works a little differently.

          • William Huffhine

            Good afternoon GoGoldenWave.

            Thanks for your defense. :-) But John has a legitimate concern and we’re happy to hear from him about it and check it out.

            Also appreciate your feedback on our new paid content model. Totally respect your opinion. It’s important to reiterate that we at the Daily Journal are simply asking those who currently pay nothing for the product we produce to understand the value of our product and begin paying about 19 cents per day to continue enjoying what our journalists work hard to produce. The paid content model we’ve implemented has become mainstream practice across the industry at newspapers of all sizes, much smaller than us, and much larger.

            It’s also worth noting that the Daily Journal is owned by the Create Foundation of Tupelo which invests millions of dollars into the economic, educational, and social well-being of Northeast Mississippi. So a portion of every dollar spent with us by both readers and advertisers is reinvested to help improve the quality of life for those we serve. Inviting our faithful readers to pay a minimum of 19 cents per day arises out of the passion embodied by our slogan: “A locally owned newspaper dedicated to the service of God and mankind.”

            Have a great weekend and again, thank you for your feedback.

          • GoGoldenWave

            Mr. William, i have to say i have never had someone thank for “defense” after calling them incompetent, but then again, you seem to be the heading the PR of the website and that is one thing is has definetely needed. If readers felt like the reporters actually interacted with them more in the comments section, im sure people would feel more inclined to pay to see the content (myself included) because they were getting more then what they got just from the paper itself. From reading your comments, most just seem like copy and paste answers (constantly reminding us of the cost per day), but its a step in the correct direction. Even though the journal is owned by the mighty create foundation, the journal still needs profits to keep their staff employed. Over the past year, i have seen the journal buy a magazine in jackson and recently a paper in new albany. First you get rid of my comics (which led to my wife and i letting our subscription run out) and now this. It seems to me that money is going out the door and the return on investment is either not coming in as expected or atleast much slower. So you buy two papers and then start charging for the website. Not to mention the new press which left me dissapointed with the quality we were told to expect. I’m sure the journal will keep this confidential, but i am interested in what percentage of viewers they expect to keep now that the paywall is up (im sure you and other higher ups down there sat in a room and planned all this out before today). Im not trying to insult your intellegience (obviously your not incompetent or they wouldnt have hired you) but i do hope you can learn from other papers mistakes before the journal is too damaged. Ill just leave you with this http://paidcontent.org/2013/09/30/another-wall-tumbles-the-dallas-morning-news-dismantles-its-paywall-focuses-on-premium-content/

          • William Huffhine

            Hello GoGolden.

            I thanked you, quite simply, because you are a reader and for that reason I care about you and respect your opinion. I assure you I haven’t copied or pasted any of my responses. Each one is carefully thought out and respectfully written, as I am doing now.

            Again, I’ll thank you for your thoughts on how our writers can better interact with readers and our newsroom will see this exchange and consider what you’ve said.

            You mentioned our acquisitions. Yes, we are a company in growth mode while most other newspapers across the country are in retreat mode. This is a testament to careful and competent leadership from people in our company more significant than me. It is also a testament to the excellent readers and advertisers we are privileged to serve. And, I for one, believe it is the result of reaping what we try to sow. We exist to serve our community. And when one does good, one often receives good. We acquire new properties that we believe will further strengthen us to carry out our mission of improving the quality of life in the communities we serve. Do we at times make mistakes and fall short? Of course. But when we do we acknowledge it and learn from it.

            As for me, I am a veteran of the newspaper industry since 1995, before the mainstream Internet. I’ve held management positions at newspapers in four previous markets, some larger, some smaller, and I’ve worked for the three largest newspaper companies in America before coming to Tupelo. I’ve watched and participated in the evolution to digital media and the implementation of pay walls at various places around the country. And I will answer your question about expectations based on firsthand experience. Website page views will drop approximately 10% in the first couple of months, then level off, then begin again to increase again. Our traffic today, with the pay wall, is equal to an average day before the pay wall. And today was one of our strongest days in a very long time with people ordering not just web subscriptions, but Total Access subscriptions which include home delivery. With only a few exceptions, our readers have overwhelmingly responded to this move with kindness, understanding, and support.

            I hope this is helpful to you. Moreover, I hope you will hear the message of how important you are to us and how committed we are to serving you well, which requires the resources to do our job with excellence. Please feel free to reach out to me at bill.huffhine@journalinc.com any time I can serve you.

          • William Huffhine

            Oh, and yes I am familiar with the move at the Dallas newspaper. Newspapers such as Dallas do not fare quite as well with the paid content model they attempted primarily because they focus less on local news and more on national and world news, most of which can still be accessed for free on sites like CNN or Fox. For every Dallas there are a dozen mid sized or smaller markets that have been successful with such a model, and an understanding audience. Have a great weekend!

          • GoGoldenWave

            Well Mr. Huffhine, I have to say you are great at explaining why things are happening. That is EXACTLY what this website has needed. Im not going to tell you how to run your business because i dont believe youd tell me how to run mine, but i do hope your reporters see this and maybe they will start interacting. THEN i will be getting something i feel worth paying for that no other site for the local area can provide,nor can anyone get from a newspaper. I would love to see your sports boys do open chat rooms for readers to come interact with and exchange ideas on the season (calmly and professionally). You have managed to change my opinion of your company more so than the articles the journal has published on here about the pay wall. The fact that you designate the difference and why other papers have failed at paywalls and how you can avert them gives me more hope for the paper. Most of the comments have been negative about the paywall, but in my field you learn quickly that satisfied customers dont speak up near as much as the unhappy ones. While i may not agree with all the actions taken by the journal, nor with everything you have said, you have earned my respect, as has the journal again. I will be talking over with my wife about returning our support to the journal in the morning. And you, mr. Huffhine, also have a great weekend sir!

          • William Huffhine

            Thank you Sir. It’s been my pleasure to have this conversation with you. Email me at the address I mentioned above with your name, address, and phone number. Monday morning I’ll start a two week free trial for you to begin on Tuesday, and send you an invoice for a one time special discounted rate. Just pay the invoice if you’d like to continue beyond the two weeks. If not, disregard the bill, delivery will stop after two weeks, and we’ll just consider those two weeks my gift to you for the privilege of being able to discuss these things with you today.

            Cheers!

          • John Snoopy Henson

            Just to give you an update, what I said would happen, Happened. I did not get several big name ad’s kohl’s Sear’s Staples OfficeMax, or Best Buy. Two relatives on the road got some of these Ad’s and all of us did not get a best buy ad or staples. But at the end of our road, TOWARDS Baldwyn the last three places that paper is delivered got all the ad’s! My in-laws received more ad’s then we did & they live in Guntown. I can understand, if everyone on the road did not get the ad, but if they all got different ones and some had it and some did not, then there is still a problem. Thanks for listening to my issues. Oh by the way we did not receive a Kroger ad in any of our papers in the past two weeks, Sunday or Wednesday, but I looked at it online @ Kroger.
            Have a Merry Christmas :) Feel free to contact me with any questions.

          • John Snoopy Henson

            GoGoldenWave, you ever heard the words, if you don’t have something nice to say, please don’t butt in?
            I am a PAYING customer of the Daily Journal, after reviewing your comments, it seems you are no longer a PAYING customer of the journal. I have made legitimate complaints, (I have email responses from Journal, basically saying not their problem & nothing they can do from around 2-3 years ago.) I just want to receive the paper and all the paper. I am not an idiot, I used to work retail and know when a certain company paid for ad’s to be put in the area I live and it did not happen, I complained and was told to come by journal and get the ad. Then it happened again & again with other company’s.
            That’s why, like I said, I will end up going to 3 places to get a paper, that I PAY to be delivered to my house, so that my family will have the whole paper on Thanksgiving day. Which is sad & I just don’t understand.
            Thanks for your Attention William Huffine, I appreciate your responses, & pray that we have a better experience this Thanksgiving.

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  • Randy mcmickin

    I am a long time home subscriber. My work causes me to read the paper on my iPhone more than at home . I have no problem with a cost for others that do not subscribe. Along with that I feel some tweaking needs to take place with your phone application. I’ve had iPhones for years so I’m not a newby. Registering was a real pain because the page jumped up and down . And today had trouble signing in due to the same page jumping. It’s not my iPhone . My point is if you’re going to charge take a little more interest to make it more user friendly. Also when I click obituaries I don’t get current obituaries I get the archives. Please do some adjustments.

  • brokenboard

    Where’s the pay wall?