In a report on MinnPost Friday about the Star Tribune’s upcoming metering system to charge some readers to read online, David Brauer asks:
The question for competitors is how they take advantage of the Strib’s new reader hurdle. Will there be a meaningful number of disgruntled readers to snatch? Can smaller but staunchly free local news operations like the Pioneer Press, MPR, MinnPost or TV successfully market themselves as “all free all the time”?
Here’s MinnPost’s answer: We absolutely will NOT try to capitalize on the Star Tribune’s move by promoting ourselves as “all free all the time.” And here’s why.
MinnPost is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, tax-exempt, purpose-driven enterprise. Our purpose is to increase the quantity and quality of reporting and analysis about public affairs for people who care about Minnesota.
For us, it’s all about the total news and analysis that concerned Minnesotans have available to them, not just the part we play. Sure, we believe it will serve democracy well and improve quality of life if MinnPost has more success so it can invest more resources in reporting and analysis. But we also believe that having a healthy Star Tribune serves democracy and our quality of life, as well. We want the Star Tribune – and the Pioneer Press, and Minnesota Public Radio, and every other enterprise that is paying professional journalists – to figure out how to be sustainable, too.
The Internet has made it much harder for publishers of original reporting and analysis to convert readership into advertising revenue than it was in the era of print and broadcast only. Thus, the publishers are putting more emphasis on capturing a greater share of revenue from readers. For nonprofits like MinnPost and Minnesota Public Radio, the reader revenue comes from voluntary donations. We need many more of our readers to donate to be confident of our long-term sustainability.
For for-profits like the Star Tribune and the New York Times, metering is one way to capture more revenue from a certain group of readers – heavy users who don’t subscribe to the print edition. We wish the publishers luck. We hope readers will support all the serious newsgatherers whose work they believe in. It’s not just about a consumer good, it’s about a public good – a better informed citizenry.