Grump: Thanks for listening about paying for access to online stories, photos

‘Grump’ is part of his email address, but he’s anything but.

He’s been active in the community forever and a hands-on enthusiast of York County history.

So I winced a bit in reading his email:


“Although I have the YDR delivered at home, I don’t think I should then have to pay addition fees for online use. I only bring to your attention for one reason; as a local history student I can no longer access your articles, or the many other history related articles online.

“Although I understand the need to require non subscriber to pay for access to the news portion of the paper, a choke hold has been placed on the local history enthusiasts. I believe this will reduce readership to all those who do a wonderful job of reminding the people who live in York County, of the who, what, where, when, and how of our local history.

“Perhaps a remedy would be to allow full access to the history title pages without charge, and the news portion of the web could remain subscription. I sure one of your IT people know how to make that happen! Thanks for listening… .”

My response:

Dear Grump (not),

You’re right as usual. We could put the blogs in front of the paywall. In fact, I’m sending you this reply, and you’ll be able to open it at no charge because this blog, YDR Insider, is excepted from the paywall. We thought a blog where we attempt to transparently tell you what’s going on in and around our newsroom should be so.

But we also believe that the content on, and all our other sites has value. And it costs us something to produce it – even those history posts on and our other history sites.

In a way, it’s gratifying to know that you believe these history stories and photographs have value. And by putting a charge on it, that fact is reinforced.

You make an interesting argument that subscribers should get a break. Keep in mind that they do pay a reduced price, $1.99 monthly versus $5.99 for non-subscribers. But again, please remember that those stories online are a separate product line. A good part of what’s online never appears in the newspaper.

I should say quickly that this paywall project is still a trial, an experiment.

Important people in our company read posts such as this one. I don’t know how they have time to do so, but I guarantee that they see them. They are more interested than you may know about how the public is viewing the paywall.

Who knows? They might decide to make the paywall, well, history.

Thanks for writing,


P.S. For more about paywalls, check out our online subscription category.




About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, and its many digital products. Journalism/history blogger: Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
This entry was posted in Behind the scenes, Blogs, Digital Subscriptions, Editor, Letters and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Grump: Thanks for listening about paying for access to online stories, photos

  1. One of the interesting things about the metered paywall model is that it favors casual/occasional/non-local-search-referred visitors over the most loyal/most frequent visitors to a site.

    Very interesting to see if and how it is affecting the newspaper’s relationship with engaged local citizens like this one.

  2. Jim McClure says:

    Matt, yes, it does indeed seem a bit down upside when it comes to reader relations.

  3. Dawn Cutaia says:

    I do NOT like the fact that the blogs are behind the paywall. I think there are better ways to raise money. I wonder how much you would get if you asked for donations? One of my hobbies is web design and there are so many programs out there that are free but ask for donations. If I find a program I like, I donate to it. It might be 10 or 15 bucks – but I know I am not the only one donating. If you put a Paypal and and Google checkout button on your site I would be curious to see if people donated and how much you raise.

    I absolutely agree that journalists need to be paid and editors need to be paid (I know from my own inability to write a coherent sentence that editors are very helpful) and we need to figure out a way for newspapers to continue to make money. I think the general public forgets that newspapers are not charitable organizations even though we rely on the news and feel as though that is such an important public service that it should be available.

    I know when I read a newspaper at Starbucks, I generally don’t take it with me, but leave it behind, for someone else to read. You can’t do that with the web. I pay for New York Times access and Wall Street Journal access and I don’t mind paying for access to the main YDR website. But I think the blogs are extras that could drive people to the main website – but the blogs themselves should be free.

    I am a subscriber to the print edition and I would rather pay more up front than having to log in every time and make a payment monthly. I would rather the print edition price go up a little bit – but perhaps other people would balk at that.

    When that paywall comes up – even when I do have a subscription which I do purchase on occasion – I just close my browser and figure I’ll come back tomorrow. Which is obviously not what you want. It’s a pain to have to go through all those steps to pay.

    (I also hate how quickly articles are archived and that we have to pay for those as well).

    • Randy Parker says:

      Hi Dawn,

      Randy Parker here. I am the managing editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News. I thought I’d get back to you on this one, as I have had many such conversations throughout our community since we moved to online subscriptions.

      We appreciate the support you express for good journalism, and your effort to help chart the best ways to keep that going.

      Some news organizations are trying the “tip jar” approach you describe, and we will continue to study all good efforts. Wikipedia, for instance, seems to be on to a business model that is surprisingly successful.

      You mention that blogs are extras and that we should consider allowing free access to them. That was a point of debate as we crafted our current business model. And at one time, I would have agreed that they were merely supplements that might drive readers into the meat of our coverage. Today, however, our blogs represent a significant part of how we serve this community. They are key to how reporters connect with audiences. From a business standpoint, good blogging costs us just as much as good newspapering.

      If you have an online subscription, you should not see a subscription message pop up once you have logged in. I work between many computers each day and I cannot remember the last time I needed to sign in. If that is happening, please call customer service at 717-767-4663 for assistance.

      You mention that you would prefer to pay more for your print subscription in order to gain unlimited access to what is online. In essence, you can do that. Simply go to and sign up for the 7 Day YDR and All Access Digital package. That is a discounted bundle for readers just like you. You can also call Customer Service and they will get you fixed up with that deal.

      Also, we are planning to extend the time that articles stay active before going into the archives. For now, that is the case for stories found through search engines. Soon, we expect, that will be for articles found in any manner.

      I hope this helps, Dawn. You raised great points — things we discuss here routinely as we try to transform one proven business model into a new one. These are fascinating times to be in this business, and feedback like yours really helps.


      Randy Parker
      Managing Editor
      York Daily Record/Sunday News

      • Dawn Cutaia says:

        Randy thanks for the information you provided. I will sign up for all digital access.

        Regarding archiving materials I was thinking that maybe articles about the various candidates for political office should not get archived until after the election or at least the primary. Just a thought.

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