Why we have a paywall on our websites | Editorial

It costs money to gather news.

I’m not referring to social media posts, blogs, citizen reporting or political propaganda.

I mean the ethical, professional, unbiased presentation of issues that matter to our community.

From reporter salaries to printing costs to equipment and software, it requires a great deal of money to provide our readers with news they can trust. How newspapers receive revenue to support those costs has undergone significant changes in the last 20 years, driven primarily by citizens’ access to technology.

Beginning in the mid-2010s, newspapers began to implement paywalls on their websites as a way to increase revenue in the wake of declining ad sales and paid print readership. Your local newspapers — the Sounder, Journal and Weekly — have been very lucky with our loyal print subscriber base. But we have been affected by declining advertising dollars, most pointedly since COVID-19.

According to a story in the New York Times last year, the internet has actually “been a boon for some publications with a national audience. The New York Times has never had as many subscribers or readers — or employed as many journalists — as it does today. The Atlantic, The Washington Post and some others are also thriving. It’s at the local level that the digital revolution has been as destructive as feared. Hundreds of local news organizations have folded, as their advertising revenue disappears, and the pandemic is exacerbating the crisis.”

We introduced a paywall on our sites in 2020 but we set the story limit quite high — meaning most of our readers still received free content. We slowly decreased that number and saw that our customers were willing to pay for access to our sites, whether with just a digital subscription or a print + online package. As of a few weeks ago, we limited the number of free stories to just one per reader.

You can purchase a digital-only subscription for $5.95 per month. Or, as a print subscriber, you receive unlimited online access to our news sites. To get access, you need to activate your digital account. On our home page, click on “Sign In” on the upper lefthand corner. Click on “Existing subscriber? Create Login.” Fill out your information and click submit. If you run into issues — such as your account can’t be found — please email circulation@soundpublishing.com or call us at 360-376-4500. We will assist in setting you up.

If you aren’t a subscriber, we encourage you to sign up at https://www.islandssounder.com/subscribe/, https://www.sanjuanjournal.com/subscribe/ or https://www.islandsweekly.com/subscribe/. Our print subscription rates are very reasonable, and by signing up for that, you will receive digital content for free.

Per a Wired news story (www.wired.com/story/paywalls-newsletters-and-the-new-echo-chamber/), if paywall sites are going to attract more consumers and “provide them safe harbor from the free-news vortex,” newspapers must make a better case for why it’s worth the money.

”That means letting people know the actual cost of producing journalism, and what’s at risk if you don’t financially support it. Otherwise, big publications will only serve a minority of the population, small publications will struggle to survive and people who have grown accustomed to free news will continue to seek it out, even if it ends up not really being news at all,” according to the story.

There are consequences for not supporting those who bring you the news. Democracy cannot thrive when its citizens do not have access to legitimate news sources. Thank you for supporting us and the critical work that we do.