From December 1, 2010 the Stabroek News website at www.stabroeknews. com will begin to charge for access to the content on site.
The website has offered a valuable and free service to the public since 1997 even though there has been a significant cost in terms of infrastructure, human resources and maintenance of the site.
The decision to begin charging for content is premised on two grounds: the withdrawal by the government of all state advertising in Stabroek News and the continuing rise in operating costs faced by all newspapers.
This is the second occasion in three years that the government has cut off advertising to SN, the difference this time being that other private media are also affected. The explanation given by the government is not credible and moreover it continues to discriminate against the media by advertising in the state-owned Guyana Chronicle and the Mirror in contravention of the press freedom Declaration of Chapúltepec to which it is a signatory. Guyana Publications Inc is entitled to a portion of state advertising on behalf of its readers but since it is also clear that the government will not see reason on this matter, there is need for Stabroek News to consider further measures to secure itself.
On the business side, newsprint – the costliest input in the newspaper’s operation has risen in price severely. The last shipment was purchased at US$650 per tonne and the best current price being quoted is US$840 per tonne and there is no indication that there is trending towards a sustained, lower cost.
Although the market here is depressed and the costs of all inputs have risen progressively over the years, Stabroek News through prudent management has been able to shield the public from higher costs. The last increase in the price of the daily and Sunday newspapers was on January 1, 2007 and April 1, 2007 respectively, and this was mainly to cover the introduction of the Value Added Tax from the first of that year. Prior to 2007 the last increase of the cover price was in December, 2002.
Advertising rates for space ads have not been increased for 12 years and adjustment here will now be under consideration.
However, GPI believes that in all fairness the segment of its readership which should bear the immediate impact of cost recovery is its online readership. GPI developed its website in 1997 to enable, in particular, the diaspora to stay in touch with what is happening in their homeland. Over time much more has become available to the online community including the ability to comment which has seen over 400,000 comments being made to stories that have appeared in the online edition. That facility has also led to healthy debate among those in the diaspora and those here.
There have also been recent changes that make the website even more attractive and others are in the works. Over the last few weeks www.stabroeknews.com has been doing live updates of events, and for instance on Thursday evening reported on the approaching storm even though there had been no official word up to that point from the local meteorological office. So the online reader is having a good read every day and all for free. Moreover it is not only those in the diaspora who are reading SN online but also those resident here.
On the average there are about 20,000 unique readers every day of www.stabroeknews.com and around 5,000 of those persons access the site from Guyana. It is manifestly unfair that the cost of running the newspaper has been mostly borne by the average man and advertisers while those who are better able to pay read for free every day and benefit from the live updating throughout the day. It is now time for those persons to begin to pay to rebalance the revenue streams and also to send a signal to this government that repressive measures against independent media will not tolerated.
Some content on the website will continue to be free, in particular, editorials, letters, etc. Increasingly content providers are beginning to charge their readership in recognition that they are a rapidly growing segment of the market and also because content accumulators are profiting for free from their work.
Next year Stabroek News will be observing its 25th anniversary and we humbly believe that it has played no small part in helping to give a voice to the people and to keep governments accountable. It has not been an easy task and is quite expensive. We invest in travelling to various parts of the country as we are presently doing for our well-received series on the Grow More Food Campaign, and this is not cheap.
We do believe that our online readership will recognize the value of the work they are able to read every day and will be prepared to subscribe.
The subscription periods and payment options will be published shortly.