The pace of change has quickened around the Business Times this month.
We have literally reinvented our 11-year-old weekly business journal to meet the demands of our readers for the new and exciting era of digital news delivery.
The exciting part of this for you is that as long as you are a paid subscriber to the Pacific Coast Business Times print edition, you won’t be charged extra for the new features you’ll find at www.pacbiztimes.com.
Our reinvention began with Real Estate/Finance Editor Marlize van Romburgh and a Sharpie. Van Romburgh joined us two years ago, armed with a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo journalism degree, an economics minor and the subject of her senior thesis: the evolving nature of the “paywall,” a term used to describe subscription-based content in digital form.
Her thesis explored, specifically, the willingness of business readers to pay for quality business news. What she found in her research is that while general news consumers often see even vitally important stories as commoditized information that they want for free, business leaders are willing to invest in information that helps them make better business decisions. The Wall Street Journal, for example, has always charged for its premium content online and has built the largest base of paying digital news subscribers in the world.
Enter the Sharpie. Earlier this year, Van Romburgh started keeping track of the number of Business Times readers who said they were interested in having a digital option. When the tally on the wall hit 30 in a matter of weeks, we started exploring our options.
Van Romburgh designed and developed the look and feel of the new site, and Web developer Tyler Suchman of Dennison + Wolfe in Ventura and his team did the coding magic to make the paywall system happen. Technology Editor Stephen Nellis, advertising graphic designer Liz Nadel and publishers George Wolverton and Linda le Brock also pitched in.
The team built a sleek new site that keeps our breaking news and general information free but offers subscribers who create an online login account access to the premium content part of the site.
We also took a big step forward in late June, when we shifted our subscription fulfillment operation to ESP, a vendor in the San Fernando Valley that has worked closely with other business journals as they created their paywalls.
In its simplest form, ESP is able to generate a single account number that works for print and online access — it gives subscribers an easy-to-use key that unlocks the stories and information on the other side of the paywall.
Because your digital key is linked to your print subscription, you get a single renewal date for print and digital — as long as your subscription is current, copies will come in the mail and your online login will continue to unlock our digital content.
The result is a brand new website launched earlier this month. We think you’ll find the design crisp, clean and easy to navigate. The site provides not only access on your desktop screen but also a really cool mobile version that works with our paywall functionality.
As of press time, we’ve had close to 200 subscribers register for online access, just one week after launching the new site.
Here are some things you should know about the free side of the new site:
• Nominating worthy candidates for 40 Under 40 or any of our awards programs is going to get easier and it will reside on the free side of our site. (The 40 Under 40 nomination form is now available now at pacbiztimes.com/40-under-forty)
• We’ve made it easier for anyone to contact us via email, submit press releases, newsmakers announcements, learn about advertising and event sponsorship, download our editorial calendar and buy event tickets.
• We’ll still provide our free breaking news alerts, breaking news stories and weekly news summary to all readers.
Behind the paywall you will find:
• Our top news stories and in-depth coverage from the weekly print edition.
• Our entire main news section in digital “replica” form, so that you can turn pages, read Newsmakers and briefs, just as in the print edition. (Advertisers, don’t worry: The digital replica includes all of our print advertising.)
• Exclusive stories produced first for the Web that are in-depth and written specifically for our subscribers.
Finally, there are a few caveats to our digital subscription:
• First, you must be a print subscriber to receive the digital benefits. There’s no such thing as a “digital-only” subscription.
• Second, we’re not including our special reports or our Book of Lists as a digital option. Each week’s Top 25 list remains a separate buy available for $9.95 in a downloadable PDF or Excel spreadsheet (pacbiztimes.com/lists). Of course, subscribers still get the annual print Book of Lists included with their subscription.
• It’s safe to assume that our combined print-digital subscription offering is pretty powerful stuff and it will get more expensive over time. If you really like what we’re doing, think seriously about a three-year subscription so you can lock in current prices.
Pacific Coast Business Times is ready to meet the demands of our readers for the digital age. We hope you like what you see and read — in print, on your BlackBerry, on your desktop, your laptop or your iPad.
• Contact Editor Henry Dubroff at [email protected] Your thoughts on our new website and digital offerings are welcomed.