Sean is a life-long resident of Augusta with over 30 years experience at the The Augusta Chronicle.
Posted December 6, 2010 09:45 am - Updated June 29, 2011 10:40 am

New metered subscription starts today

As you may have heard, we are implementing a metered subscription model for our Web site. Starting today, a notice will appear when you hit 5 and 10 premium page views, and a subscription will be required when you exhaust 15 of those pages. We expect the limit to drop to 10 premium page views in July 2011. Premium content is defined as locally-produced content. That said, here are pages that contain free content and will not tick the meter tracking premium views: section fronts, live breaking news, news updates, photos (including Spotted), blogs (for a limited time), obits and classified and general advertising. The meter starts when you first access a premium story and resets one month later. It will not necessarily reset at the beginning of the month.


This is not a paywall like you might see at The Tallahassee Democrat or The Greenville News.


Our metered approach intentionally leaves a large number of pages free and tracks views of designated content. Different readers might be affected at different times. Casual readers may not experience much impact at all. We will probably be making adjustments as we learn.


We compiled a list of your questions from calls and comments under Alan English’s blog. Read it for a more detailed explanation of what we are doing. The Q&A below should address some of your concerns.


Q: Can family members log on at the same time or from multiple computers?


In the early phases we will allow multiple logons. However, with time, we will likely be more akin to Netflix, where devices are identified and authorized to view the site.


Non-subscribers will still be able to access the site and view all of our non-metered content as well as premium content up to the 15-page limit per month.


Q: Can users pay for a full year subscription?


For now digital subscriptions are available only on a month-to-month basis. That may, and probably will, change in the future.


Q: Is the E-edition (PDFs of the actual print edition of The Chronicle) included with the digital subscription?


The E-edition is available to current print edition subscribers by following the “Delivery Services and Apps” link near the top right of our home page. You can also get an E-edition only subscription for $7.95 per month. We will probably be including this in the digital subscription at some point in the future.
This is the best option for people who like the traditional print product. You get the same paper we deliver to your house each morning in an easy-to-use electronic format.


Q: Will we continue to have pop-up ads?


There’s not much we can do about that. These ads currently, and will continue to, pay the majority of the bills. Subscription charges have never brought in enough money to cover a newspaper’s expenses. Regardless of what we charge, we don’t see that changing.


Q: Will you add an E-edition-type section for advertising fliers that appear in the print edition? Maybe add the store’s website link?


That’s actually a really good idea.  We will definitely try to set that up, but it would likely be part of our free, unlimited content.


Q: Will you include the archives as part of our digital subscription?


This idea has merit, and we will look at this in the future. We presently are under contract with Newsbank to provide access to our archives, so we can’t do it at this time. This is an excellent historical resource. Searchable scans of nearly all of our old newspapers are available dating back to 1792.


Q: Will hitting refresh on a story to follow new comments count as separate page views?


Viewing the same URL multiple times shouldn’t count as multiple page views. We’ll be doing some experimenting to see how scrolling through additional pages of comments will affect the meter. As a matter of fact, as you read this at least one of us will probably be clicking content to reach the 15-view threshold to see exactly how it will work in the real world.


Q: How will the digital subscription work with our standard online accounts?


These are separate registrations – existing and new online accounts won’t have to subscribe unless they reach the 15-story maximum, and digital subscribers can access the site without creating a standard online account. We may be merging the two accounts at some point in the future, but we don’t have immediate plans to do so. There is still a lot of free content on our site, so users with online profiles can continue to view section fronts, live breaking news, news updates, photos (including Spotted), blogs (for a limited time), obits, etc.


Q: What does this mean to our online commenters?


You can still comment using your existing account without subscribing. We will be experimenting in the coming days to see how comments count against the meter. Once you have reached the limit, you will be required to subscribe if you wish to continue commenting. If an online account is blocked from commenting for repeated violations of our terms of service, you can still access the site through your digital subscription. Non-subscribers can still comment on non-premium content to their heart’s content.


Even though we have this new pay model, we are not changing our comment moderation policies. They are driven by our terms of service, and we retain the right to remove any comment.


Again, you can read Alan’s blog for more background information.


From Alan: “This decision is part of a strategy for your newspaper. Your subscriptions help us remain one of the largest and most credible newsgathering forces in the CSRA. We want this to be as painless as possible while correcting the long-standing and industry-wide mistake of giving away all of our content for free online.”


As you have other questions, Alan and I will answer them here.