Opinion » Note

News Flash: Stories Not For Sale


Shortly after this issue hits stands, I will have had three opportunities to get in front of journalism students since the beginning of the semester several weeks ago. Over the years, I've visited college classrooms not just at Boise State but also at College of Idaho, and I've spoke in front of journalism students as well as upper division English and communications majors with an emphasis in public relations.

One question comes up without fail, regardless of the college or the area of study: How does Boise Weekly support itself without charging for subscriptions? I wish I could say the consistent question was more probing or philosophical about the state of media, but while those do come up--and with some regularity--it seems like what everyone really wants to know is how can we give away a product and still keep the doors open?

In fact, I was on a panel discussion earlier this year when someone in the PR industry asked if Boise Weekly would consider an online paywall anytime soon. The obvious answer is that we give away our print product so why would we charge for our online content?

How do we do it? I thought the traditional revenue model of journalism was obvious. Apparently it's not, because it's not just students who ask me this question. The answer is: advertising. Advertisers buy space in our paper to have access to our audience. Part two of that answer is that advertisers do not buy editorial content; to reiterate, they buy our audience.

The latter is something advertisers are prone to forgetting; more than one has pulled their ad space upon disagreeing with editorial content. Readers, however, should expect that our editorial content is never dependent on who buys ad space in our pages. As the editor of a newspaper, someone who has been immersed in media for a decade, I forget that not everyone understands the separation of church and state, of editorial and advertising. I've written about it numerous times during my time as editor and yet, the question still comes: How do I buy an article in Boise Weekly?

Related to advertising, I have one thing to pass along to readers on the publisher's behalf this week: shopboiseidaho.com has been discontinued. Thanks to those of you who supported it and shopped it. If you have any questions about its termination, please contact Publisher Sally Freeman.