For a few weeks now, the Chronicle Times has had a website, a development that many people feel is long overdue but one I have not been enthusiastic about.
I have reluctantly adjusted to this development but I'm still a bit uncertain as to what purpose it serves for our business.
We've received thank yous in our website guestbook from former Cherokee County residents who have been able to keep up on local events through the website. My reaction has been, 'Isn't that nice?' but I've written before about the fact that I don't equate niceness with rational behavior.
I've talked to a few people before we had our website who acknowledged that they wanted to avoid the expense of subscribing to the paper. They didn't understand why I couldn't see the logic in our helping them avoid paying for our service.
Others in our office pointed out that the website does not contain everything in our newspaper so people would still need to subscribe if they wanted to get everything. My response was, "What if they're satisfied with not getting everything? Even if just 1 percent of our customers or, for that matter, just one customer is discouraged from subscribing because of a free service, why do it?"
Well, wiser people than I decided that a website promotes our image and has value to the community, to which my question of "So?" does not get an immediate response.
We only update our website about once a week and I'm happy that we don't do it more often. So far, no one has complained about this practice but it is only a matter of time before we receive such complaints from people who will point out that major newspapers update on a daily basis.
Prior to the website, some customers tried to encourage us to create one by pointing out that the Washington Post and New York Times have websites, expecting us to be eager to emulate major metropolitan newspapers.
The Chronicle Times is not a major metropolitan newspaper and will never become one. It has been my observation that this only happens to newspapers located in major metropolises.
By the way, those people who try to get us to write articles by pointing out that such an article has appeared in the Sioux City Journal or the Des Moines Register do not make us all excited about doing the same thing.
If the proposed article is about something of local news value, we will do whatever is appropriate. If it is a human interest story, the fact that it has appeared in another newspaper will discourage us from doing the same thing.
Back to the subject of the common practice of newspapers having websites, I never understood why the major metropolitan newspapers did that either. Most of them now require the on-line user to register and charge for part or all of the information services.
The idea that all newspapers will provide information free to the public is not something people should expect.