Paid Online Subscription Model Reporter

Update: this report was prepared 7/26/2004 and things have improved. See here and here for more information.

The Our Hometown online subscription model is unique in the market place today in its selection of which pages are available to online subscribers only and which pages are available to the public. Many newspaper websites make the archives available to subscribers only and grant access to the recent news to the public, some protect everything. The Our Hometown system protects only the most recent news and allows the public full access to the archives. The number of issues that are considered recent is a variable in both the Our Hometown systems and the other systems in the market place today.

Some newspaper websites make protected information available to print subscribers only and that is also an option with the Our Hometown system.


News has its highest value when it is new. The print archives of most newspapers are available for free in public libraries and other sources. The Our Hometown system charges for the part of the web site that has the highest value, the recent editions. The model supports newsstand and subscription sales of the print edition because the value of the current edition is enforced and it only gives away old news.

Archives in the Our Hometown system are highly indexed by search engines, bringing in new readers constantly. When a totally free web site converts to the Our Hometown paid online subscription model, site traffic remains more or less the same. With no loss in traffic the advertiser value of the web site is maintained. Readers get many exposures to the online newspaper because most is free, giving them many chances to decide to take a online or print subscription. Most systems shut down the majority of the web site.

Readers that want the details of a specific recent story that they found because the system displays the headlines and teasers of all protected news to the public, simply have to wait until it goes in the archive to get it for free. The vast majority of the web site is free and open for immediate public access encouraging research of community issues.

Pricing Models

Two publishers that participated in the beta trial of the system in the first half of 2003 have used the system for more than one year when. Each used a significantly different strategy for pricing online access. Both publishers offered print only subscriptions. For web subscriptions one only offered online access in combination with print and the other offered both the combonation and web only access. Details on the publications and their pricing methodology follows.

The Wave of Long Island Putnam County News & Recorder
Type of publication Local Community Newspaper Local Community Newspaper
Market description Reviving, once very affluent suburban resort community of Far Rockaway, NY in NYC Affluent bedroom community of NYC in Putnam County New York
Publication Frequency Weekly Weekly
Number of newsstand sales 9,000 2,000
Number of newsstand outlets 90 15
Number of print subscriptions – local 1,409 1,500
Number of print subscriptions – out of town 715 500

Pricing Strategy

The Wave of Long Island Putnam County News & Recorder
Single issue price for print on newsstand $.35 $.50
Yearly price for print subscription – local $15.00 $22.00
Yearly price for print subscription – out of town $30.00 $25.00
Yearly price for print in combination with online – local $20.00 $30.00
Yearly price for print in combination with online – out of town $35.00 $33.00
Difference between print and combination price $5.00 $8.00
Yearly price for online access only $20.00 Not offered
Pricing Notes: Only a single online only account was offered

Order Data

Paid model start date 3/22/2003 6/6/2003
Number of days on paid subscription model at 7/26/2004 491 412
Number of online orders for print only 68 23
Number of online orders for combinations 156 98
Number of online orders for online only access 138 1 (only one offered)
Total orders taken online 362 123

Traffic Data

Monthly unique visitors before paid access implemented 16,215 23,699
Monthly unique visitors immediately after paid access started 16,934 22,153
Monthly document views before paid access implemented 88,500 126,418
Monthly document views immediately after paid access started 127,367 120,555


Web Subscription Revenues $3,540 $792
Print Subscription Revenues * $3,360 $2,662

Contact Info

Sandy Bernstein
General Manager
Brian O’Donnell

* – because local vs out-of-town data for orders was not available for this report, revenues numbers for local subscriptions (the lowest of the two) are given.

Key traffic findings

Unlike the normal “paid archive” or “paid everything” models where there are significant drops in traffic, with the Our Hometown model one publisher actually saw increases and the other one decreased only a small amount. The conclusion is that any effect on traffic caused by the model is much smaller than normal month to month variations.


The Our Hometown paid subscription model only generated web subscription orders that are between 2 and 3 percent of total circulation, similar to numbers reported by the Newspaper Industry in general. However, without the negitive impact on web traffic “paid archive” or “paid everything” models have, the Our Hometown model maintains value for both local web advertisers and revenues from programs like Google AdSense. Another benefit is the significant print subscriptions and classified orders generated as a result of the website traffic, which is maintained with the model. A primary benefit is the publisher need not worry that either newsstand sales or print subscriptions are effected because the publisher’s content is available on the website as the “new news” is available to subscribers only.

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