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Herald Switching To Membership Model; Read All About It!

The Havre Herald will implement our membership model within days. We ask everyone who reads and values the news we report to sign up for a paid membership so we can continue reporting stories that matter. 

Your support will cost as much as one latte a month, a few cents less than a Big Mac at McDonald’s, and a few bucks less than a six-pack of beer. But with us, you won’t get a hangover. 

How do you know if you should support us? That’s easy. If you read The Herald and have learned more about your community thanks to us, you should support us financially. 

The Herald launched in May 2018. Since then, we’ve published reports including investigative news, court news, breaking news, and the occasional human interest piece. We report stories that matter. And we’ve gone out of our way to publish content you’d be hard-pressed to read anywhere else. 

We’ve provided our content, to use a trendy word, for free. But, as many of us know, hardly anything purported to be free really is. And that is true of news. Reporter labor costs, documents, website operation, editing services, and other expenses are all part of running a news organization.

Thanks to our advertisers and the handful of individual contributors who’ve partnered with us, we’ve been able to operate during this startup phase without losing money. But operating costs have risen. As our content has piled up, bandwidth has increased exponentially and the cost to host with it. Other costs, including editing, have also increased. 

Increasing costs are part of a growing operation. Our expenses are still very low by comparison, which should make it all the easier to raise what we need and continue on.

The secrets to our editorial success has been hard work, a connection with community members who often come to us with newsworthy matters, and our very complicated publishing criteria: Report what’s newsworthy and worry little about anything else. 

We’ve spent the last 20 months showing why we launched in a small town with an established newspaper. In a Jan. 3 editorial titled “Our News Is Free To Read, But Not Free To Gather,” I list several recent stories you most likely read here. It’s why we’re here: to help inform you with news that matters.

We are not in a unique position. Figuring out how to make money in the news business has become as much a part of the industry as finding hay on a dry year has for ranchers. Except that in the news industry we’ve been enduring a drought nonstop. 

A few months ago I learned most people don’t know that news organizations struggle. I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising. After all, you’re most likely not a journalist.

So here’s a quick summary of how the news industry got here: 

Long before digital-only news existed, but on the not-too-distant heels of the golden age of newspapers, the internet began upending the newspaper industry. The internet changed the game by creating alternative ways for people and businesses to advertise, most notably by way of Craigslist, Facebook, Google. Some estimates indicate newspapers lost about $5.4 billion in advertising dollars thanks just to Craigslist during the first seven years of the 21st century.

Mostly, print advertising has been a newspaper’s major source of revenue. By the mid-20th century, ads generated about 80 percent of newspaper revenue. But thanks to the steep decline in advertising revenue, nearly 1,800 newspapers in the U.S. closed between 2004 and 2018, leaving 200 counties with no newspaper and roughly half the counties in the country with only one. In 1990, some 455,000 people worked in the newspaper business. By early 2017, this had dropped by more than 50 percent to 173,900 employees.

Since this news disruption, and particularly its impact on text news, newspapers have been wandering the desert trying to get to the promised land of a dependable modern-day news-producing model. 

The Herald, one of many digital-only news sites popping up around the country, and in Montana, is a response to the disruption and not the cause of it, as some may believe. Digital-only news tries to fill the void of important news reporting created by newspapers who lost boatloads of cash and their ability to stay atop of what’s happening in their communities with it. Internet publishing jobs have been increasing. 

Digital-only news organizations aren’t burdened by the overhead costs of printing and delivering. It’s one less department, an expensive department when you consider the general pay of journalists. And considering the industry is bleeding money, it makes sense to try a model that deletes, or in some cases, reduces, expenses not directly related to news reporting. 

When you pay for a subscription to an online news organization, your money is far more likely to go to newsgathering. It benefits both you, the reading public, and those of us working hard to provide you with quality news.

Now, without further ado, let’s talk about this new model and how you can help The Herald continue:

Herald Membership

The Herald membership model will include three paid options.

Some content– local and state news– will have no restrictions.

Option 1: $5/monthly 

If you read The Herald regularly, we ask that you support us by signing up for at least the monthly $5 contribution.  

Herald members who pay $5 can read all news content, including our Havre 911 police blotter and Courts & Cops stories. The blotter and anything in the Courts & Cops category will only be accessible to paying members. 

Yes, we did say we were going to scrap the police blotter, but we’ve changed course. Apparently many of you were very sad about this. We’ve heard your cries and we’re correcting. The Havre 911 blotter will publish Fridays and run in the day’s weekend news package. 

Option 2: $25/monthly 

For $25, partner members can read all content while receiving the spiritual satisfaction of knowing your above-and-beyond contribution will help our newsroom grow.

As a thank-you gesture, partners can choose from a select number of posters of a photo taken by our spectacularly talented photographer Teresa Getten. You can have it delivered to your home. 

Option 3: $50/monthly; For Professional Members 

This option is for businesses and organizations, which can share access with their employees. 

For $50, we’ll post your organization’s logo and/or tagline, with a hyperlink to your website, on our Meet Our Professional Members page, which will have a tab at the top of the homepage. 

Professional members also receive up to two announcements a month about their organization on The Herald Facebook page and in one of our weekly newsletters. If you represent a dealership and you have a special sale, send us the flyer and we’ll post it. If you represent an educational institution and you’d like help getting the word out about an event, send us the digital flyer or poster and we’ll let the word out.

You can sign up for a membership starting now. Click here do so.

Moving Forward 

This membership model is the result of a lot of reading, research, and discussion. We are trying to balance delivering critical news and having the means to do it.

Not to put any pressure on you, but the rest is up to you. If you’d like to sign up right now, you can do so right here.

We look forward to … going forward. 

Thanks for reading The Havre Herald.

Paul Dragu is the editor and publisher of The Havre Herald. Learn more about The Herald staff on the About us page. (406) 262-7778
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