Other Opinion: News is a commodity, and valuable


Twenty-seven cents. That’s what it costs each day to purchase a digital membership to the Herald.

It’s $9.99 per month; sign up for a year and pay $100. Divided by 365, it comes to 27 cents each day. With it comes access to news from all outlets within our company.

We mention this in response to the numerous people who have questioned why the Herald has moved behind a paywall, and also why the Herald and other newspapers in Forum Communications Co., including the Brainerd Dispatch, are limiting views of certain coronavirus-related stories.

The answer: Because news is our greatest commodity.

Many retailers offer “loss leaders” – specially priced products to initiate business via other, more profitable, products.


An example is a store offering a ridiculously low price on, say, a can of soup. The sale price might be so low that the store actually loses money on it, but the store’s managers realize the attractive price will bring in consumers who purchase other products at profit.

Since the 1990s, most news organizations have treated digital news as a loss leader. All of the news of the day was presented free in an effort to bring in readers who will view the profitable sectors of the organization – for instance, advertising and print editions, which include inserts, coupons and the like.

But while many advertisers and print subscribers remain, others have left. The pandemic certainly doesn’t help as advertisers close or cut back.

Meanwhile, the Herald sometimes gets more than 80,000 unique visitors to its website each day.

News isn’t a loss leader anymore. It’s our chief and primary commodity, and it’s important to treat it as such – not just for our bottom line, but for the sake of people who crave reliable information about their city, state or sports team.

Thursday, the Herald printed a story that outlined cost-cutting measures being made throughout Forum Communications. These efforts are being done so the company can try to avoid or limit some of the financial trauma that has hit many other news organizations.

For instance, the newspaper in Tampa, Fla., has reduced its print days to two per week. In Cleveland, the Plain Dealer now only publishes three days per week. A report published recently by Fortune magazine notes that more than 2,100 towns across the nation have lost a newspaper in the past 15 years.

Bill Marcil Jr., our ownership group’s president and CEO, was quoted in our front-page story Thursday, saying he appreciates all of his company’s readers but also said that “just as you need the news right now more than ever – we need you now more than ever.”


Mr. Marcil neither required nor requested that this editorial be written. Instead, we write it to emphasize his comments, and also to remind our readers why we now charge for the bulk of our news.

News matters. It matters especially in a crisis, but it will matter later, too, as we cover your government happenings, hockey games and important events.

And it costs money to produce.

News is not a loss leader. It’s a commodity, and a valuable one at that.

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