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‘Free’ doesn’t mean we’re skimping

Posted: November 2, 2012 4:45 p.m.
Updated: November 5, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Free. It’s a lovely word, isn’t it? For most of us this week, “free” means voting for our candidates of choice or express how we feel about certain issues.

But “free” has another connotation: without cost.

A few days ago, we began providing our print subscribers with free access to our website’s editorial content. Now, anyone with a print subscription to the C-I -- current new -- can also read our stories online for no extra charge. As we said in our announcement Wednesday, that means, for example, that someone paying $77 for an annual subscription to the paper no longer has to pay an extra $26 to read that same content online.

Now, if you only want to read our news online and not take the paper at all, that’s fine, but it’s the same price as a print subscription alone. The better deal, as we pointed out, is to take the combo package as we are no longer offering print-only subscriptions.

So, how do you go about getting this free access? Current print subscribers have to register on our website. Go to the top right of our homepage and click “Register.” Enter your information and, within 24 hours (possibly a lot less), you’ll be able to read our stories online for free. If you’re not a subscriber and have been holding back because adding Web access was a little too much, try subscribing now by clicking “Subscribe” right next to the “Register” link. There, you’ll have the chance to choose subscription package (3-month, 6-month and 1-year) and pay for it online. After that, you will immediately and automatically be able to access the website’s news content.

Having the choice to read our stories online and in print one price goes beyond just reading front page stories. In addition, all our Viewpoint columns, letters to the editor, editorials and the cartoons we print from Camden’s own Robert Ariail are all online. All of our Localife content is online. So is all our award-winning sports coverage. Our weekly crime report is online, as are our weekly For the Record, Rec Notes, and even Sidewalk Survey features. Our periodic business and military briefs, school news, Pet Talk and Tax Tips are online.

So, just about everything that comes with the newspaper is on our website, too.

There are several reasons to keep getting the printed newspaper, though. Exclusive to our print edition are our legal advertisements, Church News and the print version of our calendar of events, as well as our advertising specials and circulars. None of those are placed online.

On the other hand, there are definite perks on the website. Take our coverage of the King Hagler/Joseph Kershaw statue unveiling. Online you saw the exact same article we had in the paper, but you got to see 12 pictures, not just the three we placed on the front page.

Now that more of you are able to access our website, you’re going to see us dive a bit more into breaking news. Tomorrow is Election Day. Tomorrow night, I’ll be at the voter registration office -- laptop in tow -- keeping up with results. I’ll let you know who wins what and what the vote totals are. I’ll do that on our website, in the form of breaking news alerts and a story page with a running list of the winners. We’ll alert you to that same information on our Facebook page, too.

In fact, one of the other perks of having online access and clicking that Like button on our Facebook page works out like this: many of you might be aware that we provide links to our front page stories throughout the day each Monday, Wednesday and Friday -- the days the paper is published. For many of you Like-rs out there that have also subscribe to the paper but didn’t have an online subscription … well, you hit our paywall didn’t you? Now, you won’t. When you click on one of our links on Facebook, you’ll go straight to the story.

“Hitting the paywall” also meant you only saw a portion of the online version of the story. That meant you couldn’t scroll down to the comment section. Now, you won’t have that problem, either. Any print/online or online-only subscriber can see the whole story and, therefore, the comments section. It’s your chance to let us know what you think of our stories -- in essence, to have an online conversation with us and each other about the news, events and issues of the day.

Often, online conversations get out of hand. However, since only paid subscribers can access the comments, there’s no anonymous posting. Call me square, but I like things to be civil whether it’s on Facebook or a website, in person or on the phone. No reason, in my opinion, we can’t have that, too.

Finally, I hope that opening up the premium content to all our print subscribers leads them to discover some other aspects of the website, namely our already free Community section. People who have registered for the website, whether paid news subscribers or not, can not only view digital photo albums, an online calendar of events and blogs, but create them, too. That’s right, you can start a blog, upload photographs you want to share with your friends or place an event on the calendar.

Who knows, I may even get back into the act of blogging again!

All in all, I think our decision to give our loyal subscribers a break on the website is a good one. It recognizes that things are changing in the “newspaper” business and better reflects our ultimate goal -- taken one, sure step at a time -- of telling the stories of Kershaw County through whatever medium you want to use. I can see the day when we create a mobile version of the website and even -- dare I say it?! -- when the Chronicle-Independent only comes to you digitally.

But that day isn’t here yet. What we do have is a day of digital independence for our print subscribers, a deeper relationship between print and online. For those of you reading this who haven’t subscribed yet, we hope this will convince you to vote with your dollars and do so.

Don’t forget to vote at the polls, tomorrow, too. That’s even more important and we hope you’ll exercise your right to do so. And then come right back to the C-I’s website or our Facebook page tomorrow night to find out who the winners are from Camden City Council all the way to president!

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