PUBLISHER’S NOTE: FLS takes another big step in digital world
By NICK CADWALLENDER
BACK IN THE mid-1990s, when The Free Lance–Star first went on the Web, we didn’t really know what direction our online business was going to take.
Our earliest efforts, which eventually became Fredericksburg.com, grew slowly as we learned what a great opportunity we had to deliver news straight to someone’s computer screen. Our audience got bigger as more people found their way to the Web.
We even helped some of those early readers get online—for a while, we sold dial-up Internet access, and more than once some of us went to people’s homes or offices to get their computers connected.
Getting people connected, in fact, is our goal at The Free Lance–Star and Fredericksburg.com. In the early days of the site, I said that I wanted to see our community talking to itself online. That still holds true today.
Our company’s vision is to be the indispensable information source for our community, and that means we have to constantly evaluate the job we’re doing to make sure we’ve got the right people, products and resources in place to get you the information you need, when and where you need it.
We’ve made some investments and changes this year, for instance, to redesign Fredericksburg.com. We’re removing a lot of clutter from the site. We’re focusing the main news section on the latest news and posts from our own staff members as well as members of our community. And we’ve created a design that will adapt itself to the size of your screen so you get the same information on your PC, tablet device or smartphone.
We’ve also worked with a local mobile design company called Deedod to create a site especially for tablet devices such as iPads, Google Nexuses and Kindle Fires. The new site, Freelancestar.com, will look and feel more like a magazine and will reflect the news decisions we make in our print newspaper every day.
As we create these new products and try to maintain the quality of all of our products, however, we need to make sure we’re running a healthy business. We employ more than 330 local people to put our products together every day. We are a locally owned, locally run, multimedia organization. That’s rare in the news business these days, and we intend to keep it that way.
But that means we have to make sure we’re prudent about running our business, and we have to diversify the way we fund our operations. In the past, our digital operations have been heavily subsidized through print revenue. We have decided to add a digital subscription element to the mix.
Today, we are launching a “meter” on all of our websites. The meter will track how many pages an individual user hits. Our more frequent users will eventually reach a subscription page that asks them to buy a subscription to read more stories. We offer options that include a print subscription or that are only for digital access.
If you’re an existing subscriber to The Free Lance–Star, your digital subscription is included in your existing subscription. You’ll just have to get login information from the site—a link will tell you how to do that.
We know this is a big step for us to take when we’ve offered free access to Fredericksburg.com for so many years. But we’re committed to offering the best products we can, and we’ll work tirelessly to earn your business.
As we watch the world of journalism and local news shift, we have to constantly change to keep pace. We still don’t know what our online business will look like five or 10 years down the road, but we think these changes will keep us on the right track. We hope you’re along for the ride.