We’re ready to celebrate FREEdom

Published 7:03 pm Saturday, July 2, 2011

Our announcement last week that we will begin distributing the Suffolk News-Herald free at newsstands all around Suffolk generally has been met with excitement and approval.

But there have been some questions and a few misunderstandings. Let me get a couple of things straight right off the bat.

First, why are we doing this?

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It’s simple, really. We believe a newspaper’s greatest purpose is to provide its community with news and information that is essential to the well-being of the people in that community, and we believe that the more people who have access to that information, the better in turn for the community. Therefore, we came to conclude that we want to make Suffolk’s news available to all Suffolk citizens, regardless of their ability to pay.

Subscriptions and newsstand sales have never made up more than a small portion of most newspapers’ revenues. Advertising has always been far more important, and getting our newspaper into the hands of more readers each day serves those advertisers’ needs and therefore gives them more value for the dollar they spend with us.

And that’s led some folks to ask whether we’re planning an increase in ad rates to make up for the lost circulation revenue. That’s also easy. No, we are not. Other than the annual rate increases we normally apply to cover rising costs, no rate increases are planned. With the deeper penetration into Suffolk’s market afforded by the wider circulation we expect to result from freely available papers, we are confident that even more advertisers will be interested in sharing their messages through the pages of the Suffolk News-Herald.

That will result in more pages and more news published each week, more interest from readers who have not closely followed this newspaper and, therefore, more business from advertisers around the region. It truly should be a win for our readers, for our advertisers and for us.

And that brings us to another popular couple of questions I’ve heard about the change, a couple of questions with special significance to me and to those who work with me at the Suffolk News-Herald: Does this mean the paper will be shut down?

I can assure you that everyone involved with this newspaper — from delivery drivers all the way up to the owners — is more committed than ever to its success, and the evidence is in the amount of work that has gone into putting together this new free distribution model. We all want and expect the paper to succeed, and we’ve developed this plan to make it even more relevant to Suffolk than ever. The Suffolk News-Herald and its predecessors trace their roots back 138 years, and we’re not going away anytime soon.

One tangible bit of evidence that this is a growing newspaper with a long future is the experience we’ve had with our North Suffolk edition, which has been distributed free in North Suffolk for almost four years. When that edition was launched, we had about 150 subscribers in that area. Today, more than 5,000 newspapers are distributed free at newsstands around that part of Suffolk every day. In fact, it is the success of that free edition that has given us such confidence that citywide free distribution will be a success.

There’s probably nobody in our building who would turn down a small lottery jackpot or two, but the paychecks keep coming every other week, and the newspaper has a solid plan for profitability well into the future. That’s more than many editors around the nation can say lately, so I consider myself blessed to be a part of this newspaper.

Be sure to join us as we Celebrate FREEdom on Tuesday. Stop by our office, by one of our newsstands or by one of our dealers and pick up your free copy of the Suffolk News-Herald. And thanks for being such loyal readers.