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Josh Bergeron: Online subscriptions help support unique, local news

Readers of salisburypost.com lately have been asked to sign up for a subscription after passing 15 stories in a 30-day period.

It’s a change from past practices, but it’s one we believe is necessary to sustain Salisbury’s and Rowan County’s hometown news outlet long into the future. So far, only the most avid online readers of the Post have received this message.

Gone are the days when newspapers can afford to only be a printed product or only rely on advertising to pay the bills. In another era, someone my age — late 20s or early 30s — would move to a town and find a place to live, sign their children up for public school, find a church to attend, join a civic club (perhaps paid for by an employer) and at some point buy a copy or subscribe to the local newspaper.

Besides finding a place to live, none of those things are quite the same. The North Carolina legislature has enabled the proliferation of charter schools that have drawn kids away from public schools. In Rowan County, a large number of children attend private or home schools. My regular meeting attendance might indicate otherwise, but I’m a proud Kiwanian who’s also an anomaly in my civic club membership. Church attendance across denominations isn’t as healthy as it once was. Meanwhile, people are more likely to casually read online articles from the Post than they are to subscribe to a print edition.

I still think the print edition is the best way to read the news. In a world where it’s easy to drown in information, the print edition is a curated version of news for people who live in Salisbury and Rowan County. The talent of people like Andy Mooney, who designs nearly all of the Post’s front pages, can shine in print. It’s not so easy on a standard template website.

By necessity, the Post is now a multimedia news and marketing business that publishes a daily news website featuring photos and videos, a printed newspaper three days per week, online-only editions two more days per week and a social media following in the tens of thousands to aid in its news and marketing efforts. Advertising in 2021 is an entirely different beast than it was even a few years ago, but our advertising staff isn’t only selling on our website and in the printed newspaper. If you visit a website, chances are our advertising staff can get your message there.

Newspapers got started on transitioning to digital news outlets about two decades ago, but they started by just posting snippets of the full edition and made the mistake of giving it all away for free. For a while, the Post did this, allowing people to read as many articles as they liked without paying for them, but there aren’t many businesses that give away products or services without charging. Sure, advertising technology has gotten much better, but businesses cannot rely on a single stream of income for long-term viability. Particularly when our reporters and editors work long hours to produce content that sometimes only appears online, we think there’s a good value proposition for subscribers. On salisburypost.com and in print, subscribers receive dozens of unique articles per week you won’t find anywhere else.

On Friday, reporter Carl Blankenship wrote about the rollout of the Rowan-Salisbury Schools summer meal program, reporter Natalie Anderson detailed results of a workers’ compensation lawsuit filed by a former Salisbury Police officer and reporter Ben Stansell wrote about the transition to a new medical provider at the Rowan County Detention Center. There were nine other stories published in Friday’s online edition, too.

The cost for an online-only subscription is $10 per month plus tax. That’s about 33 cents per day and provides a much-improved reader experience with significantly fewer advertisements, including the ones that cover your screen. There are also no surveys. Subscribers receive a digital replica of the printed newspaper in their inbox five days per week, which can also be accessed by clicking on the “e-edition” link in the black bar at the top of salisburypost.com. The digital replica of the newspaper is a lot like reading an e-book; it can be read on a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer.

People who subscribe to the print edition already have access to an online subscription and can get their password and username by emailing our circulation folks at circulation@salisburypost.com. Otherwise, if you enjoy reading the Post online, consider supporting local news with a subscription.

Josh Bergeron is editor of the Salisbury Post.

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