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How much is information worth?

How much is it worth to a reader to be able to access local news from virtually anywhere in the world?

That is a question with which The Tribune and, ultimately, the entire newspaper industry continues to struggle. The Internet poses a challenge as newspapers and other media try to find a balance between serving readers and giving away for free something that costs a significant amount of money to produce.

It is always an interesting one for me to ask because I hear a wide variety of answers ranging from nothing to hundreds of dollars a year.

There are countless options out there that newspapers and others have tried to use to monetize websites. These include pay walls, metered access, premium content, limited availability to nonpaying readers and many other approaches.

So, what is the correct answer? No one knows.

The reality may be that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.

It was exactly one year ago today that The Tribune implemented the Google Consumer Surveys feature which requires readers to answer a couple of questions a day to access new content and a couple per story on all archives.

I still get feedback from online readers who don’t like it but, as I said at the time, it seems like a better option to ask our readers to share their opinions rather than their hard-earned money.

I still believe that.

This information isn’t linked back to individuals and Google is only interested in the aggregated results because their clients will pay to understand what the American consumer thinks.

We will continue to utilize these surveys as a way to offset expenses and justify providing access to our content for free.

Will online access to The Tribune always be free? Probably not, although no changes are imminent.

The reality is the business model for digital access may have to change at some point for The Tribune, the newspaper industry as a whole and virtually any other magazine, television station, website or media company that produces exclusive content.

Will it change in a year? Five years? 10 years? No one an say with real certainty.

So, back to the original question: What is it worth to you as a reader to be able to access local news in whatever format you prefer?

I would be very interested in your feedback. Of course this doesn’t commit anybody to anything or guarantee changes, but it could help ensure readers have a voice.

The answers could become very important in the future.


Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCaldwell_IT.