Assigning a value to information: Changing online business model

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Column by Ben Sheroan

By Ben Sheroan

The cost of something is not the same as what it's worth.

  • Good health is priceless but health care can be quite costly.
  • A warm February day filled with sunshine comes with no price tag but delivers loads of value.
  • No amount of cash can warm your heart like a grandchild's impromptu hug.

So how much is information worth?

Generally, information is valued because of its essential nature in decision making. Clear choices require accurate and timely information. Sometimes there's a life and death importance tied to what you know and when you know it.

I work at a newspaper. Our stock in trade is information.

It could be a community calendar or a list of celebrity birthdays. Information includes the latest new car prices or a yard sale find. On the news team, we consider the ramblings of local government agencies, a verdict from the Justice Center or high school scores to be valuable information.

Page after page, news and sports, advertising and anniversaries, headlines and obituaries all provide information of interest and importance.

So what's it worth?

For a portion of our audience that makes daily purchase decisions, it's worth 50 cents on a weekday or a $1 on Sunday. That's the single copy price.

For others who prefer the convenience and immediacy of home delivery, its $131.35 per year or some variation from our rate card.

And for the past several years, the price to our faithful online users: Zero. Electronic access to the staff's hard work and award-winning efforts has been absolutely free.

That's about to change.

The newspaper's website, www.thenewsenterprise.com, is added a value component in order to enjoy news and information developed by our reporters, editors and support staff. Sometime today while most of you are watching the Super Bowl, a change will be initiated. The website will erect a metered pay wall.

What's that mean? To read this column plus other news and editorial content online, you will have to enter a business relationship with the newspaper just like folks who subscribe or purchase a print copy of the paper.

That sounds fair. But it's also a change in the business model. Some readers will find it troublesome but take heart, not every item on the website will be locked.

All visitors to www.thenewsenterprise.com will continue to have full access to all advertising messages. That means you can scan the help wanted ads, check out yard sales, read every public notice legal ad and review all the large display ads featured in the interactive Marketplace file at the top right of our home page.

The newspaper also will continue to provide free access to all obituary information. No one is going to be charged to read the final tribute to their grandfather or great-aunt.

Also, breaking news developments and any matter considered to be a public safety concern should remain free. That will include traffic safety matters and weather alerts.

In addition, visitors will be granted access to up to 15 stories per month before encountering the pay wall. That applies to every unique IP address. This metered approach allows casual users to collect information of vital personal interest but still insists upon a business relationship from routine readers.

If you already are a home delivery customer, you can continue to enjoy full online access. We want you to have the information in the manner that best suits you. Your subscription automatically grants you a password.

If you have not already become a registered user, subscribers should refer to their most recent statement. It includes your account number, which would serve as your temporary ID.

The initial password also is on your statement. It's your address. Be sure to type it exactly as it appears on the statement. The system is sensitive to ensure accuracy.

If you can't find a copy of the statement or find it more convenient, call our circulation staff during business hours Monday through Friday and they'll be happy to look up the registration information. That number is printed at the bottom of Page A1 daily. It's (270) 505-1770.

After you are registered, the website will prompt you to create a user name and password that you can remember. It will be unique and available exclusively to you.

We want you to continue to enjoy The News-Enterprise in print and online. We also trust that you value its news and information enough to pay a little something to enjoy full access.

This change strives to equate cost and value. A lot of work goes into the production of this paper product and its electronic counterpart. It's true worth, however, only can be determined by our customers.

Ben Sheroan is editor of The News-Enterprise. He can be reached at (270) 505-1764 or bsheroan@thenewsenterprise.com.