Wednesday, November 25, 2015         

Frequently Asked Questions: Premium Online Access

Will there be any free content on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser site?

Yes. We’re taking a "freemium" approach to our website, which means some content will be free and some will be paid. Several categories of content will be free including our breaking news section. After that, premium content will be available only if you pay for it. All-non premium content will remain free. Non-premium content categories include breaking news, national and international news, photo galleries, classifieds, calendars, weather, games and traffic.

What content is "premium"?

A detailed breakdown of free and premium content can be found here.

I’m a print subscriber. Will I have to pay anything extra for online access?

Not at first. All print regular seven-day subscribers will be entitled to unlimited access to premium online content at no additional charge for one month or until your renewal date, whichever is longer. After that, premium online access will be available to print subscribers at a discounted nominal monthly fee. More information about pricing and subscription packages can be found here.

Can members of my family get online access with my print subscription?

Yes, members of a family living in the same house as a seven-day print subscriber with online access also qualify for discounted online access. Access is free until July 5 or the print renewal date, whichever is later, and $1 per month after that. Family members can get access by registering a username and password and following the directions when prompted to "get online access" as a seven-day print subscribers. Enter the account number or name and phone number of the person whose name is on the household print subscription. It's OK if another family member in the same household already has used the same information. We'll notice that someone else is trying to get access and call the print subscriber to verify it's a family member living under the same roof.

What about the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s mobile sites?

The same policies that apply to will apply to the mobile version of those websites, too.

How will online subscriptions work?

As of July 6, 2011, some of our online content, such as local news, will be considered "premium." If you want to read more than that, you’ll be asked to pay something. If you’re already a print subscriber, great! You’ll be able to continue reading at no additional charge after registering and entering some account information that validates you as a print subscriber. You can pay online or you can call our circulation department at 808-529-8000 and one of our customer service representatives will help you sign up.

How can I tell if I’m logged in?

If you’re logged in, you’ll see your login name at the top left-hand corner of every page on our website. If you’re in our system as a paid subscriber, you’ll see a small circular badge to the right of your name.

Why are you doing this?

This is a business decision we’re making to sustain the type of news coverage you’ve come to expect from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. We employ professional reporters who cover all aspects of our community — from weekend festivals and local sports to public meetings, breaking news, weather and crime — so you always know the real story behind what’s going on. This type of coverage is expensive, and for years we’ve asked our print readers to help cover the cost while online readers have had access to our news at no charge. Now we’re asking all our readers to help share the costs.

Why now?

When we first put up our website years ago, we simply transferred each day’s print news to a digital edition. Since then we have gradually added increasingly popular features that require staff time, software and management. Those features include reader commentary, blogs by reporters and editors, video, extensive photo slide shows, contests, interactive maps, polls, breaking news alerts and online calendars. We now have a team of people who are totally focused on our Web offerings and, therefore, it’s time we created a new business model in which consumers of our digital options help support that enterprise.

How did you come up with the approach you’re taking to paid online content?

We’ve been studying paid access to our online content for more than a year. One of the most successful online news sites in the world, — the online edition of the Financial Times of London — pioneered the concept, and the New York Times recently announced plans to begin metered subscriptions on its website in early 2011. In the meantime, several other U.S. newspapers have rolled out their own metered content plans. By offering a few stories each month for free, casual visitors who only want to see a story or two every once in a while will have access. Meanwhile, we’re asking our loyal readers who benefit the most from our service to help support it. The metered model also is a great way to let people sample our product before deciding whether they want to buy it.

Why do you think anyone would pay for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser online when they’ve been getting it free for so long?

Because they’ve told us they would. We’ve heard from readers who no longer read us in print for whatever reason and now read us online who want to pay, but we haven’t given them the option until now. They know we’re a business and that we need revenue to pay for the news we provide. People expect to pay for things that they value, whether it’s food, clothing, golf clubs, music, parking, cable television, an education, or news.

Why don’t you focus on improving your online product so it’s attractive to advertisers instead of charging people to read it?

The quality of the product isn’t an issue; we have far more online traffic than the typical news organization in a community our size. Most publishers have come to the conclusion that offering a website as a free online service supported only by advertising is unsustainable and are rethinking that strategy. Many have converted to paid online access or are moving in that direction. Our approach seeks a balance between online subscriptions and advertising. That’s not to say we can’t improve our content. We are always trying to do that. The real issue is that the market for online advertising is still in its infancy. It doesn’t cover the costs of producing the kind of professional, high-quality news that Honolulu Star-Advertiser readers have come to expect. Indeed, no one knows if advertising ever will support a legitimate news website.

Aren’t you worried about losing pageviews that you can sell to advertisers?

First, the metered approach we’re taking is designed to keep the loss of traffic to a minimum. Second, we have far more pageviews than we could ever sell to local advertisers, so advertising inventory will not be a problem; we’ll still have more than enough pageviews to sell to local advertisers. In fact, with this change, we are able to deliver to our advertisers a high-quality, targeted, paid online audience. Advertisers are much more interested in audience engagement than audience size, so this will improve the quality of our online audience in the eyes of advertisers, not diminish it.

Think of how much money you’d save if you stopped printing and delivering a printed newspaper. Wouldn’t that savings be enough to cover the costs of producing an online-only news site?

No, not even close. If we stopped printing the newspaper, we wouldn’t just lose the costs associated with the print edition. We’d lose the revenue, too. Like all newspaper companies, only a tiny fraction of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s total revenue comes from online advertising. The rest comes primarily from print advertising and secondarily from print subscriptions. Advertising in our print edition continues to produce the best, most cost effective results for advertisers in comparison to the alternatives. They value these results and continue to buy print advertising because readers respond. If we were to eliminate that revenue stream and rely solely on online advertising, we wouldn’t even be able to cover the cost of our sports department, let alone our entire newsroom. Closing the pressroom and eliminating home delivery is not an option from a business standpoint, and it wouldn’t be a popular option with the more than 66,500 Boone Countians who read us in print once or more each week.

Why do you think anyone will pay for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser online when they can go elsewhere and get local content for free?

Over the years, there have been free and less costly alternatives to the print edition. Yet, 20,000 households still choose to pay us for the news we deliver every day. Some of our most loyal readers are those who once gave up the Honolulu Star-Advertiser only to return because they weren’t satisfied with other sources for local news. Most people who really care about staying informed about the community see the Honolulu Star-Advertiser as the most reliable, credible and trusted source for local information. Our loyal readers who prefer print continue to subscribe. Many loyal online readers, who are literally scattered around the globe, have advised us to charge for this service, too. Many remote readers have suggested we charge them for access because they value our information.

Isn’t everything on the Internet supposed to be free?

We realize there has been a "free" culture related to the Internet. Some users continue to believe content should be free. However, that trend is shifting. The music industry led the way. Software is emerging to enable newspapers to follow suit and charge for online content by day, week, month or year. We predict this change will soon be fairly standard throughout the nation.

Will I get a refund if my commenting privileges are revoked?

Prorated refunds may be given to 52-week subscribers. Customers on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Auto Pay system may discontinue subscriptions at any time but will not be refunded any payments already made.

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