Some of you younger readers may not remember it, but not very long ago, one couldn't read newspaper articles for free. You had to buy the paper first, or get it from someone who had bought it.
Those days are coming back, with modern touches thrown in, starting Wednesday with the launch of our All Access subscription package.
A little more than a decade ago, the Enterprise joined the wave of newspapers posting their content on their websites for anyone to read at no charge. It was a big risk to give away a valuable product, but there were several reasons for trying it:
One was to get more people reading the news, and that happened. Now we have more readers than ever before. The problem is, fewer than ever are paying for it.
The Web was also a new platform for advertising, and newspapers hoped the extra ad revenue would pay for the content to be free, the same way television and radio content is free. That didn't work out. The ads sold slowly at first, rates dropped with demand, and even when it picked up steam, it was never enough to support the service.
The final reason was less noble: Everyone else was doing it.
The risk didn't pay off, and newspapers across the nation have started charging online readers, in various ways. At long last, we, too, have declared the free-news experiment a failure. We could keep it going, but eventually we would have to reduce the quality of our product, the way many larger newspapers have done. Some papers have cut staff in half and drastically reduced the amount of news they cover. Some, from Syracuse to New Orleans, went even further and dropped their print editions to three days a week just to keep their reduced content free online.
We don't plan on laying anyone off. The Enterprise has an eight-person news staff just for the Tri-Lakes area in the northern Adirondacks - no other medium has more than a single reporter here - plus a couple dozen other employees to produce, print and distribute the paper, sell ads and manage the books. Those people need to get paid; they have families to support. That means we can no longer offer the fruits of their labor for nothing.
"You get what you pay for." That old maxim may have seemed to be temporarily suspended in the newspaper industry, but in the end, it holds true. Like any other local business, we need your support. We need you to be a subscriber.
In return, we'll offer you more than ever. Starting Wednesday on www.adirondackdailyenterprise.com, our new replica edition for your smartphone, tablet or computer will give you an exact digital copy of each page of every paper - including stuff online readers are missing now like police calls, ads, and comics - all in high-definition image quality, plus a bunch of cool new features. Click on a headline, and the story text will pop up in a window. You can make the type size bigger or even have the story read aloud to you - and this is no Mr. Roboto reading voice; it's actually very good. You can even "clip" out stories to save or email to others, like you can with the printed edition. Other newspapers have e-editions, but they don't have these enhancements.
Plus, you'll get to use the regular Enterprise website, with its archive of articles dating back to April 2008.
Print subscribers get all this at no extra charge. You can sign up right on the website. We'll even throw in a couple of extra passwords for you to give to family members, since each password only allows one reader at a time.
If you're currently reading the Enterprise for free online, starting Wednesday you'll only be able to see headlines and the first paragraph of every article. You'll have a decision to make: Is knowing worth paying for?
Is it valuable to know about the candidates in every local, state and Congress election? Is it valuable to know about school budget cuts that may increase your child's class size - and to know about them when there's still time to speak up? Is it valuable to have reporters asking tough questions, investigating situations that smell funny and holding those in power accountable?
Is it valuable to know who died, what they did in their lives, who their relatives are and when and where the services will be? Is it valuable to know who was born, who is getting married and who was arrested?
Is it valuable to get a taste of upcoming events to help you decide what to go to? Is it valuable to have reporters interview artists, newspapers and regular folks to uncover the lively stories you never would know otherwise? Is it valuable to see local people's pictures and names in the paper, to see who made the dean's list or the honor roll? Is it valuable to have vivid coverage of local athletes, in stories and photos?
Are crossword puzzles valuable? Local history? Witty anecdotes? Ideas on local things to do with kids?
And then there are coupons, which are valuable in an entirely different sense - they're money in your pocket. Those savings alone could pay for the cost of a subscription.
Subscribers get all that and more fresh each day (except Sunday), delivered right to your door, device and computer for 64 cents a day - or 57.5 cents a day for digital only. (That's at the yearly subscription rate; there are other options as well.) It's a pretty phenomenal deal, especially for something that's essential.
Choose to be in the loop. Choose to know. Subscribe.