Sentinel Locks Down Web Content as Circulation Sharply Declines

Keene SentinelIn an apparent attempt to make themselves even less relevant in the 21st century, and like so many other newspaper websites, the Keene Sentinel is clamping down even further on their content.  Managing Editor Paul Miller wrote a recent piece explaining the changes that went live on their website this week, which include limiting non-subscribers to only viewing ten articles per month.  All this as their paid circulation rate has dropped more than 26% in the last five years.

It’s another move in a long series of desperate measures to extend the life of the 200+ year old paper.  Several years ago, the Sentinel cut costs by reducing the width of the paper as well as reducing the total page count.  They also raised prices to $0.75 daily and $1.75 Sundays.  Potential buyers were being asked to pay more for a noticeably thinner paper.  Guess what happened?

According to their certifier, the Alliance for Audited Media (aka the Audit Bureau of Circulations), the Sentinel’s paid daily average circulation numbers are seriously down in just the last five years.  As of March 2013 their average paid circulation was 8,874.  That’s down more than 26% from just five years ago in 2008 when they had 12,119.  In 2003 they had 13,998 and in 1993 the total was 15,704.  That means the paid circulation today is down 36% compared to ten years ago and down 43% to compared to twenty years ago.  Ouch.

Put another way, in the ten years from 1993 to 2003, paid circulation rate dropped about 11%.  In the next five years, to 2008, it dropped almost 14%.  Finally, in five more years to 2013 it dropped nearly 27% – nearly DOUBLING the loss of the ’03-’08 timeframe!   That huge loss happened after they chopped the paper size down and as more options for news opened up due to the proliferation of smartphones and tablets and as their older-age subscriber base continue to die off.  With under 200 digital subscribers as of March 2013, it’s clear that their digital component is not coming close to making up the difference.  The paper’s answer to this quandary is to lock their content down further?

Originally the digital component of their paper was available for free, then they decided to lock down most articles after one week of their publishing date.  Now they are restricting their content even further to a measly ten articles per month.  The Sentinel is banking on the idea that their reporting is so good that people will be willing to pay $0.75 to get one day’s access to their online stories, or shell out $100 per year for online access.  Will their gamble pay off?

It seems counterproductive to prevent people from accessing content that will only further expose the paper’s advertisers, especially their new e-edition, which supposedly replicates their print edition in digital form.  Of course, I have no way to find out since they have completely locked down the e-edition.  So despite it being a major feature of their updated website, it cannot be accessed by anyone except subscribers.  I wonder, how do their advertisers feel about the fact that most people can’t see their ads online?

Many Keene-area inhabitants have a history of calling the paper “The Slantinel” due to its pro-state positioning editorially.  The paper is notorious for doing nothing at all to hold local politicians and bureaucrats accountable for their actions and instead upholding the good-old-boys network.  You won’t see articles like this recent one here at Free Keene that uncovered massive malfeasance on the part of city manager John Maclean and the Keene police department.  Perhaps the Sentinel could maintain relevance to the market with real hard-hitting reporting, but they never venture into that territory.

The paper is currently in its 215th year and when I visited their newsroom a couple of years ago, I was surprised at how many staff members were present.  The paper appears to be healthy from the appearance of their office, but the numbers tell a different story.  How many more years does the oldest newspaper in New Hampshire have left?

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30 Comments

  1. Strange how the Sentinel and Union Leader… The Leader of all papers, considered a state resource… are tightening up…

    But others are now going the other way, opening up as a community resource after having found the tightening project a losing proposition. Papers opening up include the Concord Monitor and the Lewiston Sun-Journal… I enjoy the discussion on their websites.

    I think the Sun-Journal’s approach is the way to go… A lively read, even through I have been to Lewiston only once, ( to visit and consider attending Bates College as a high school student.)

  2. It’s too bad when they can’t do any real journalism… such as this article.

  3. … the end is near.

  4. Guess what. Writers are workers. They deserve to get paid for their work. Anyone who whines about not being able to get something for free ought to consider….do you work for free?

  5. Who are you talking to? Where did anyone say they shouldn’t get paid? This is about a failing business model

  6. I’m rather certain that the writers for major news websites are getting paid. As Ian notes, charging exorbitant prices for content is a failure as a business model. Readers don’t have deep pockets, but advertisers do.

  7. If their product is truly worth it, then advertisers should be more than enthusiastic to pay to advertise in the online as well as print versions. Subscription fees typically pay a small fraction of a newspapers revenues, the whole subscription model is flawed now that people have alternatives on the internet.

  8. It would be a good time for a competitor newspaper to come into Keene to replace the biased mismanaged paper that is cheap on content and deliver a better Newspaper that the citizens deserve to pay for.

  9. No one made issue that writers should be paid.

    The problem is that the paper is extremely cheap on content and charges unfair price for a paper that is biased.

  10. I’m amazed a town the size of Keene even has a newspaper.

  11. 25,000 isn’t that small. My town on 15,000 has a three day newspaper.

  12. LOL! What’s a newspaper?!

  13. To all you freeloaders who think you shouldn’t have to pay, chew on this. Advertisers
    won’t advertise unless the paper can show circulation. Period. Unless
    it is given as a gift, taking without paying is theft.

  14. What was yesterday’s headline? “Lost Dog Found”?

  15. Biased in what way?

  16. So people who live in small towns and cities don’t deserve news, is that right, Chris?

  17. Start one up, Molari. Or is that too much work for Free Loaders?

  18. Papers are going extinct. Expect local news information to be served up by a collaborative online. Advertisers pay, manager takes a cut to pay bandwidth and citizen reporters submit stories and get paid a few bucks based on hits and readers rating. Plenty of concerned citizens with smart phones and tablets out there who would report their observations for a few bucks spending cash.

  19. They’re too busy maintaining this website so you can post here.

  20. You didn’t answer my question. What was the top-of-the-fold headline on the most recent edition of this newspaper that you’re talking about?

  21. So, the answer is yes, people who live in small towns don’t deserve news.

  22. Yeahright.

  23. Uhm….we were talking about online, right? lol

  24. I see you judge very quickly..

    I am not even from Keene or New Hampshire…free loader…no.

    I worked hard all my life.

  25. I don’t know if they deserve news or not, but they don’t have news, and based on your non-response apparently even publishing a “three day” newspaper doesn’t help.

  26. That explains it. You don’t know about Keene or NH, but you’re eager to offer up instructions. Free Staters are known as Free Loaders by most of the NH residents. They want services (roads, water, sewer) but they don’t want to pay for them.

  27. By “papers” I meant the organization, not getting your fingers dirty. The overhead of the organization is not worth the added “quality” of the reporting. There is a more efficient way to produce quality infotainment around the corner.

  28. Well yes, I am eager to offer my opinion even if it pains you.

    I doubt that most in Keene see the Free staters as free loaders,

    Your prejudice shows through your posts.

  29. For someone who doesn’t live in NH or know much about it, it is remarkable that you do “know” what people in Keene think about Free Staters. What are the winning lottery numbers this week?

  30. Sorry, but there are people from outside the state watching what is going on in your beautiful town.

    If you need to know, I started 2 years ago visiting daily CopBlock.site.

    There was a lot of talk about keene and at the time, there was controversy about keene Police arresting copblock people for chalking sidewalk and eventually i started reading FreeKeene’s blog and followed the weekly news.

    There are many people who are not free stater such myself that visit the sites.

    I live in Quebec Canada and I absolutely admire the activists in Keene for their eagerness to work for what they believe in.

    I never been to keene, but from the many videos I seen from Robin Hooders, your town is a very nice town and people look mostly to be friendly there.

    I am about to get a date for my surgery, but I sure hope to come down to visit one day after I get better and have a coffee or 2 with some of you good folks.

    Cheers and kind regards

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