The history of the newspaper business is the story of successive waves of change as dramatic as the cultural, social, political and economic change it has chronicled.
First came primitive papers, often no more than a collection of letters or the musings of a country editor or the struggling owner of a print shop. Then came the popular press, complete with teams of daring, colorful correspondents and -- before long -- cartoonists and photographers. In our own time we have witnessed the dramatic birth and then the maturation of the Internet and of new media, which have sent the products of journalists to their readers with astonishing speed.
The Post-Gazette is the oldest paper west of the Alleghenies -- our first edition preceded the inauguration of President Washington by three years -- and only by embracing change have we endured and flourished for more than two centuries. Generation after generation, we have embraced our times by changing with the times -- and now we are about to do it again.
In the next several weeks we will join hundreds of newspapers in North America and overseas in initiating a new business model for our array of products: the printed Post-Gazette, our electronic replica edition known as PGe, our afternoon digital Pittsburgh Press, our post-gazette.com website and our growing menu of other Web products and mobile apps.
This new business model offers our readers many options for purchasing our products, and over the next several days you'll read about all of the ways you can tailor your PG subscription to your lifestyle, habits and taste. For most of our customers, who have home-delivery subscriptions and are either occasional or constant visitors to our digital products, there will be no change at all. You'll get your newspaper in the morning and have access to our e-edition, The Pittsburgh Press, and our various mobile apps at no extra charge and at no extra inconvenience other than linking your print and digital subscriptions.
For those who do not have a home-delivery subscription, however, we can no longer offer unlimited access to our journalism at no cost. You'll still be able to make occasional visits to our sites and dip into our content, to be sure, but only for a limited number of times. After that, we will ask you to subscribe to a home-delivery or digital-only subscription plan. You can get more detailed information about our subscription options by visiting www.post-gazette.com/faq or calling 1-855-PG-FOR-ME (1-855-743-6763).
At the heart of this new business model is the notion that the content produced by the PG staff has value -- and that products of value have costs associated with them. It is expensive to produce all the content the PG offers, from stellar Steelers coverage and provocative political commentary, from stories about your hometown schools to tips about enhancing your home life.
Why are we doing this? In order to maintain high-quality journalism, we, like newspapers across the globe, need a sustainable business model -- one that places a value on the editorial content regardless of whether it is printed or digital.
We are proud that the Post-Gazette offers a comprehensive, "one-stop shopping" summary of significant local, regional, national and world news, a service that nearly a million people a week find not only intriguing but also indispensable. We're proud to present coverage unique in this market, including a full-time Washington bureau, peerless suburban coverage, reporters working beats that have disappeared from most newsrooms and a staff assigned to cover both the business and community impact of Marcellus Shale energy production.
And then there are our award-winning sports and arts staffs, which don't only cover the news but also break stories first, whether on the field, on the ice, on stage or on the walls of our museums.
For more than 15 years, we have provided for free the digital products of our hard-working and dedicated staff: your friends and neighbors and your eyes and ears in the halls of government and the halls of the performing arts -- and of course the grandstands of sports. But as the world changes -- as we place more of our work on the Web -- we must change with the world and the Web.
The calculus here is simple. We need to find more revenue from our digital products to be able to produce more and better digital products. We need to reinvent our business model even as we reinvent our journalism.
We've been privileged to walk down these paths of change with you for generations. We look forward to continuing that journey as your neighbors and trusted companions -- for many more years. We're excited about the future and are confident you'll accompany us as we explore these new paths and share with you what we discover about this community we all call home.
David M. Shribman is executive editor of the Post-Gazette (firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1890). Follow him on Twitter @ShribmanPG.