Virginia, Hibbing and Grand Rapids papers to begin charging for online content

In a bold move, The Mesabi Daily News and its sister papers – The Hibbing Daily Tribune and The Grand Rapids Herald-Review – plan to begin charging for their online products this week.

As of Wednesday, the online version of The Mesabi Daily News will be available for free to people who subscribe to the print edition of the newspaper, which sells for $4 per week, delivered. People who want to view the publication only in electronic form will be charged a monthly fee of $6.95.

"We’ve been giving away our most valuable resource — our news content — for too long," said Bill Hanna, co-publisher and executive editor of The Mesabi Daily News.

He noted that many readers of the on-line version of the paper currently provide no revenue to the company.

"Our print customers have been subsidizing our online readers. Meanwhile, our newsrooms have been cut," he said.

At present, the Mesabi Daily News has a daily print circulation of about 9,500 and has an online audience of about 18,000 registered guests, according to Hanna.

What will that online audience look like after The Mesabi Daily News begins charging customers for access? Hanna says we’ll have to wait and see.

17 thoughts on “Virginia, Hibbing and Grand Rapids papers to begin charging for online content

  1. They seem to have the busines model wrong! More expensive for the on line business makes no sense. No delivery…. no paper seems to mean less cost. I have been waiting for this for a long time now. Get people hooked and then begin charging.

  2. I can’t for the life of me figure out why they are charging you more for an online subscription then they would if they had to deliver the printed paper to you via motor carrier or US Mail.

    It makes absolutely no sense to me. If you get the paper online they can eliminate the cost and labor of the paper, ink, actual printing and not to mention the delivery cost.

    I think someone isn’t thinking to clearly at the Herald Review.

  3. I say great move by the Herald-Review. The American Journalism Review did a great story this past month about the possibility of newspapers turning off their free stories on the web. Another great read, even FREE online, is from the publisher in Vail, Colo. who commented on that they don’t want to publish their news online since they want to stay in business. The business model is just not there on the Internet and newspapers in communities these size. I used to work for an Internet company where we promoted “free” news. When I moved back to the publishing side, I did so with no Internet content. I get questions once a month why I don’t put my content on line. I then ask them if I did, would they subscribe. Every single person has told me they would drop their subscription. So the choice is this: charge for well researched stories so you can pay reporters and pay the bills … or give the milk away for free. My econ professor at UMD told our class many times “there is no such things as a free lunch.” I am glad these newspapers are figuring that out. Simply, you can’t stay in business if you give everything away for free. The next time you are in the grocery checkout line, ask them if there is a charge for the food. I would bet all of these complainers are not paid customers to these Range newspapers. Don’t complain. Just go in your hometown newspaper office and subscribe.
    The newspaper industry is far from dead. What you are seeing is newspapers who are figuring out a model that works for them. They love their customers. They also love customers who pay for their product. Pretty simple concept that they tought 25 years ago at UMD and the formula stays true today … unless your name is Michael Moore.

  4. I have to ask!
    What were the subscriber numbers before online publication? and… out of the 18000 current online subscribers vs. the 9000+ subscribers of print, how many are out of state or out of the area?
    Doesnt take a rocket scientist to figure that one out? Most of the additional online veiwers are former residents, I would bet on that one, and just want to keep up to date on what is going on in the area and taking advantage of new technology. They absolutely wont pay the high cost that now is being proposed cause they can take it or leave it. What these papers are asking, is that the local residents subsidize there bottom lines with additional fees for subscribing, because they just cant figure out how to make enough revenue to make ends meet. Maybe they should hire a internet specialist of some sort, and look into affiliate marketing, or pay per click advertising, or any of the many other ways that many other companies are making fortunes off this new technology. I think the real problem is the dinosaur mentality, and thinking of the current marketers of these companies, and the answer might be to have them retrained, or replaced to raise the bottom line, not to drive the paper further into demise by now charging for something that could save them. I wonder if they ever heard of the saying,” don’t bite the hand that feeds you”? Without readers or subsribers, commercial advertisers will just follow suit, and find other sources of advertising, which will end up being what, for what used to be a great paper? Extict?

  5. Bad. Idea. Hanna grossly misunderstands the online world and is making the same mistaken assumptions that the record companies made when faced with declining sales. See! All these people are stealing our music. Sales are down because people are stealing. Nope sales are down because the music you produced was crap. See the connection. If you don’t – you’ll see it after you put up the subscription wall. Bye.

  6. Certain parts of the paper should be free: Obituaries, Weather, School closings, Movies, and anything considered “Public Service”. DON’T push us away!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. One of the first things you learn in Mass Comm 101 is that newspapers are supported more by advertising than they are by subscribers. Readers are vital, but less because of their 50 cents a day and more because they represent an audience that advertisers want to reach. That is, until Craigslist, et. al, killed classifieds and car dealer ads. There’s your problem, and that’s not going away.

    The $1000 or so per month raised from online subscriptions or in new print subscriptions won’t solve this or any other newspaper company’s revenue problems. The existing model is broken and must be replaced with a smaller, more flexible alternative that connects advertisers and readers in new ways.

    I know these Range papers very well and fear for their future under this paywall concept. Not because the paywall will kill them, but because they think it will protect them from reality.

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