Letter from the Publisher: A policy change

Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune Tribune Staff. Paul Huntsman.

During the last week of 1993, The Salt Lake Tribune unveiled the first digitally-delivered daily “newspaper” in the Intermountain West, a creation only four months in the making. Johannes Gutenberg would have been proud.

Utah Online, as it was then called, was a free electronic bulletin board primitive by today’s standards. Two years later, this digital platform morphed into sltrib.com, joining the World Wide Web and becoming available to anyone with a computer and internet access.

Unfortunately, the internet was in its infancy and only a minority of Utah households had online access. To jumpstart broader availability, The Tribune partnered with a Salt Lake internet provider to offer its print subscribers 20 hours of internet access for $4.95 a month. Non-subscribers paid $19.95.

And off we marched, believing, as most newspapers did, that online ad revenue would offset the lack of paid digital subscriptions.

But the changing advertising market has made journalism more reader-supported and less advertising-supported. So a few years ago, newspapers across the country began to charge for digital news content.

In a long overdue move, sltrib.com will join that movement Thursday.

Since acquiring The Tribune 20 months ago, we have invested more than a million dollars in improving sltrib.com, The Tribune apps and social media presence. But establishing a paywall is a critical source of longer-term revenue.

Charging for news is how we have sustained The Tribune since 1871 and it’s unfair to saddle print subscribers with the total cost of modern newsgathering.

Starting Thursday, we’re introducing a digital-only subscription. The first month will cost just 99 cents; after that, it’s $7.99 a month. Print subscribers have the option to pay $1.99 a month for full digital access. If you want to read more than 10 online news stories in a month, you’ll need to subscribe.

Digital platform upgrades and the immediacy of delivery may encourage a gradual migration among veteran print readers to online. But rest assured, we are committed to providing a print edition so long as the market dictates a demand.

News is news. Its inherent value isn’t diminished or enhanced by the platform on which it is delivered.

Imagine a Utah without The Tribune as an independent watchdog. Safeguarding our fundamental rights never comes free. Newspapers have always been the gatekeepers of the founding principles of democracy. Paid subscriptions are but a part of the price of that gatekeeping.

Please join us and subscribe to sltrib.com.

Paul Huntsman, Owner and Publisher