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Free Online News Coming Soon

Newspapers everywhere are grappling with whether to charge readers for access to news on the Internet.

So-called “paywalls” on newspaper websites are rising and falling daily, it seems. Come Monday, if the technology gods smile on us between now and then, FarmvilleHerald.com’s paywall will come crashing down, making our online content free to anyone anywhere.

A partnership with Google makes it possible.

After the first paragraph or two of each news story, readers will be asked to complete a one- or two-question Google Consumer Survey in order to view the rest of the story. Opinions gathered from the surveys are valuable to national companies, which pay Google, which in turn pays us a few cents for each completed survey. It’s not huge money for us, but it helps subsidize the salaries of our professional journalists and other costs of maintaining a website. And, best of all, it makes online news free to you at a time when many newspapers are attempting to sell their online content.

While we watch the actions of other newspapers with interest, we remain firmly convinced that the key to profitability is to deliver news and information to as many people in the Heart of Virginia as possible, both in print and online, then monetize that audience through advertising sales. Businesses that purchase advertising space want prospective customers’ eyeballs on their ads, so it’s logical to make access to those ads as easy as possible for readers.

For loyal readers who are annoyed by the surveys, we’ll offer an option for survey-free access to all of our site’s content for a membership fee of $4.99 a month or less. Those who currently have an online subscription have a couple of options come Monday:

Email us at online@farmvilleherald.com and request a refund for the unused portion of your online subscription.

Enjoy survey-free access to the site for the balance of your subscription period.

We believe you’ll find the Google surveys to be a minor irritation made tolerable by free access to our news. The next time a newspaper wants to charge you to read an article online, think of our relatively painless alternative. We’d much rather ask you what brand of laundry detergent you prefer than ask for your credit-card number.

STEVE STEWART is publisher of The Farmville Herald. His email address is steve.stewart@farmvilleherald.com.