On Wednesday, The Bigheart Times made an unusual move for a newspaper: We put our website behind a pay wall.
It’s also unusual for a weekly newspaper with a two-person newsroom to have a website of our caliber.
The new move should please our past e-subscribers, who have been gradually left without access to the entire paper online because the company that handled that e-edition stopped doing it Jan. 1 – for us and many other Oklahoma newspapers.
The new website will have various options to subscribe and will have a e-edition “flipbook” of the paper that is the exact replica of the printed edition. We will also post stories and photos about breaking news off-deadline, more like a daily newspaper than a weekly one. And the website will have more news and more photos than the print edition because we will not be, as we necessarily are in print, limited by the space on a page made out of paper.
The cost? For an annual subscription, $35, whether you are in Barnsdall, Pawhuska, New York or Azerbaijan. Shorter subscriptions are also available: $10 for a month or $25 for six months. Or you can buy one story for a measly 25 cents or one week’s e-edition “flipbook” for $1. (Find out more about subscribing by reading our online instructions in a PDF or flipbook form).
There have been questions about print subscribers getting the same access to e-editions and the website. Since we don’t have a legion of bookkeepers and data entry techs, we have decided to allow print subscribers this option: Pay $10 extra, and you can have access to the e-edition for the duration of your print subscription. If your subscription expires in two weeks, you likely will want to wait. We simply don’t have the time to deal with all of the billing intricacies of amortizing the rate.
Our goal is to reduce the number of papers we print. Printing is costly and not good for the earth. If you go all e-edition, all of your payments will be made over the internet with a company called TinyPass. If you opt for a print edition with the website subscription, you will pay us, as you have in the past.
We are not charging for everything on the website.
Some news items will remain free: Obituaries and announcements of free community events, editorials, weekly sports stats, small items about breaking news, and some, but not all, photo galleries, among other items. We reserve the right to figure this out as we go, as the paid website develops.
We are sure this change will displease some people who are regular visitors to the free website. Our numbers have boosted to about 2,500 visitors a week looking at more than 7,000 pages.
Our reality is that the website costs us a lot of money and time to operate. We have received absolutely no revenue from our free website for six years now, though we pay for hosting, a theme, software, computers and spend about 15 to 20 hours a week working on it. Publications with websites similar to ours hire at least one, if not more, web producer(s), who’s sole job is to post content and update the website. We do not have that luxury, but we think you, our readers deserve the best.
And frankly, we’d like to derive some revenue from our site to cover the cost of operating it. We will be selling web ads on it starting this week, too. Advertisers will be able to link directly from their ad on BigheartTimes.com to their business website or facebook page.
There is some oddity about newspapers that makes a lot of people feel that the information in them should be free. But even large newspapers find it a money-losing proposition to do that, witness the Tulsa World and The New York Times moving to a paid system in the past year. It is even harder on small newspapers with tiny staffs and less advertising revenue.
We aren’t getting rich over here, just ask Marlyn Slone our bookkeeper. We’re just asking that you allow us to make a living and cover some of our expenses.
Between Louise Red Corn and Rachel Anne Seymour, we have about $20,000 in camera equipment, and several thousand dollars more tied up in computers and software that actually make those cute little T-ballers and rodeo kids shine each week at the top of the front page.
We love our jobs.
We love you.
And we love to eat, wear clothes and have a decent roof over our heads.
Right now that roof has some leaks, and we wouldn’t ask anyone to work on it for free.