Change afoot at

Published 9:26 pm Saturday, December 8, 2012

One of the most rewarding things about publishing a newspaper in this age of the Internet is the opportunity to get immediate feedback about particular stories. A basic desire of nearly every writer, regardless of genre, is to be read, and the Internet allows writers to easily see just what sort of significance their digital scribblings have on the world.

At the Suffolk News-Herald, this interaction takes place on our website, We post our stories, folks navigate over to the site and click on the ones that interest them and we can track which stories are the most popular and widely read. Don’t worry. We don’t track individual users, and we wouldn’t share that kind of information, even if it were available to us. Mostly we learn that folks like to read the obituaries, crime and sports stories and features about people doing unusual and interesting things around the city.

Newspapers around the nation have begun to explore charging for that content, setting up what we call “paywalls” to try to capitalize on their online readership. Twenty years or so into the rise of the Internet, executives from all sorts of industries, including newspapers, are still trying to figure out how to make money from their online investments.

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Though our company clearly intends profitability, we made a commitment to the good people of Suffolk a year and a half ago to buck the trend of increasing subscription and single-copy charges for our print edition.

When we committed to giving the paper away free at newsstands around the city, we were making a statement that Suffolk’s community news should be made as widely available as possible, and we believed — and have been given reason to continue to believe — that advertisers would see the benefit of our wider distribution and take advantage of the chance to use our paper to reach the largest print audience in Suffolk with messages about their businesses and products.

We have taken a similar approach to our online offerings and have no plans for erecting paywalls that keep readers away from our website content. In researching other ways to capitalize on our website, we have identified an opportunity to leverage the interactive nature of the Internet through a partnership with Google, while keeping our website free and protecting our users from intrusive and frustrating pop-up ads.

In the coming days, users will find that some features of our website will be available only after answering an innocuous marketing question or two. Questions range from general ones about purchasing habits to specific ones about watching a particular show or choosing which advertisement is more appealing.

Here are a few examples:

Which one of these food items would you prefer to eat while watching a sporting event?

  • Popcorn
  • Pizza
  • Chicken wings
  • Chips
  • Hot dog

How important is new technology when considering a new vehicle?

  • Not at all important
  • Somewhat important
  • Very important

No personal data will be collected, and the answers will not be linked back to the users. Only the aggregated survey results — not individual answers — are provided to the companies seeking to pick America’s collective brain.

Finally, users can choose to ignore the questions in favor of sharing the page they’re reading on a social network.

We want to continue to be the primary source of information about Suffolk for Suffolk residents, and we appreciate the partnership we have with all our readers, both in print and online. Our commitment to you — and to your privacy — remains undiluted. If you have any questions or concerns about the new program, or about the newspaper itself, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.

Thanks for reading the Suffolk News-Herald.