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What? A survey?

If you are reading this online, you have obviously discovered that The Coastland Times has finally caught up to the digital age. We’re happy to be online, and are glad you decided to join us. If you are reading this in print, we are equally grateful to have you with us, and invite you to check us out our new website as well.

Since our site went live just two weeks ago, nearly 15,000 users have visited thecoastlandtimes.com and viewed a combined 68,000 pages of content. Almost 1,200 people have signed up to follow our Facebook page, where our posts have reached 13,500 people in the last month. During this time, we’ve received lots of positive feedback from readers who are glad to have a digital option for reading our content. Our goal is to continually improve your online reading experience, and make our digital platforms a first stop for readers who are interested in all things Outer Banks.

That having been said, we need to make a confession on behalf of the newspaper industry. In the two and a half decades since the very first newspaper rushed to put its content on this new thing called the World Wide Web, newspaper publishers have struggled to crack the code regarding online readership and revenue. The reality is that the content you read online costs publishers just as much to produce as the content you read in print. However, in a rush to be innovative and to reach more readers online, the first publishers to experiment with the internet didn’t consider the ramifications of giving their content away there for free. As a result, many newspapers, primarily large, daily newspapers, have seen a significant decline in print readership and advertising revenues, which has led to less local content for the communities those newspapers serve. Community newspapers like The Coastland Times are much healthier than their metropolitan counterparts for reasons we’ll go into at another time, but the digital conundrum for us remains the same; now that the proverbial toothpaste of free online content is out of the tube, is there a way to put it back in?

Some newspapers have chosen the route of online subscriptions, where only those who pay for access can read their content online. There are a number of different models employed by publishers who charge for online readership, varying from hard pay walls that exclusively reserve all of their content for paying customers, to websites that allow you to view several articles per month before readers are asked to pay for additional stories. We have chosen, as have many others, to continue to allow free, unfettered access to our content online. And we hope to do this well into the future.

In an attempt to help offset the cost of producing the local content that appears on our online platforms, our website has a feature that has drawn a little criticism. When you visit our website and click on a story you are interested in reading, you will sometimes be asked to complete a short Google survey. Google aggregates the responses to these surveys and provides the overall results to the advertisers whose products or services are mentioned in the surveys. Individual responses are not tracked, and personal information is never disclosed. Google then reimburses us based on the number of surveys that are completed. This helps us to defray our production costs and provide an online experience that is free for our online readers. If you’d prefer not to take the survey, this is an option to skip it and go right to the story you’re interested in reading. While we’d prefer our readers take the survey, we completely understand that some may choose not to. And we’re okay with that as well.

In summary, we’d like to thank all of our loyal readers, both our longtime print customers as well as our new online friends, for reading The Coastland Times. Since 1935, this newspaper has been a part of life on the Outer Banks. Thanks to you, we plan to continue being a part of it for many more years to come.

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