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An explanation to Kyiv Post readers about our online paywall

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Feb. 1, 2014, 9:16 a.m. | Ukraine — by Kyiv Post

The Kyiv Post would like to provide all news for free, but relies on advertising, paid subscriptions and other forms of revenue for its financial survival.
© Kyiv Post

Kyiv Post

At the Kyiv Post, we take seriously our social responsibility to provide insightful and fair news coverage about Ukraine.

News organizations, especially in times of crisis, also have an additional responsibility to give the public reliable reporting, investigations, photographs and to offer readers the best available opinions and analysis on events.

For this reason, from the start of the anti-government EuroMaidan protests on Nov. 21, the Kyiv Post made all of its online content available for free. We continued to do so as Ukraine's national crisis lasted throughout December and the winter holidays.

However, because the Kyiv Post needs to operate as a business to sustain its brand of independent and trustworthy journalism since 1995, we began charging for some articles on Jan. 13, even as EuroMaidan continues. 

During emergency or decisive moments in the crisis, we will continue to drop the paywall on stories and make this content available for free. Readers responded with nearly 2.8 million pages views in December, a record month since the Kyiv Post website was launched in 2002, and January readership has been strong.

The Kyiv Post will continuously review its policy to find the best way to serve readers, subscribers and advertisers.

But currently here are the types of stories our readers can expect to read for free:

* Live updates on breaking news events;

* All multimedia and photo galleries;

* All aggregated links to other news organizations' coverage about Ukraine, usually found in our Ukraine Abroad or Opinion sections;

* All opinions, whether staff-written or from guest contributors.

Here's what we are asking readers to subscribe to:

* exclusive staff-written stories and investigations;

* news services, such as Interfax-Ukraine, for which the Kyiv Post pays a subscription fee and hires people to update regularly.

In an ideal world, the Kyiv Post would like to provide all news coverage for free. But the financial realities in the news business are that print advertising is a dwindling source of revenue. This is true for most newspapers worldwide. It's also true for the Kyiv Post.

Our newspaper is working hard to develop other forms of revenue to offset the decline in print advertising. These include hosting conferences, roundtables, providing native English-language speakers for editing services and publishing special supplements.

We also are aggressively seeking out advertisers to sponsor content and themed supplements, such as our upcoming Lawyers' Quarterly.

Some readers, angered that the Kyiv Post charges subscription fees for online stories, have accused the newspaper of profiting from Ukraine's crisis. The truth is quite the opposite: it is because we believe in Ukraine, and want to continue providing what we believe is a valuable service, that we have to find a way to support our activities.

Online subscriptions are becoming increasingly more important for our financial survival as a news organization. Even in the best of times, the Kyiv Post is a small business that occasionally turns a small profit in some months while in other months requires subsidies or grants when we can secure them.

In the last quarter of 2013, the newspaper broke even, our best performance since the 2008-2009 global financial crisis. But 2014 is starting out as an economically challenging time for many reasons.

Nobody who works at the Kyiv Post is getting rich. We are here because we are dedicated to providing news and helping people understand what is happening in Ukraine.

Journalists work some of the longest hours for modest pay of any profession, and -- as the violence of EuroMaidan shows -- also encounter some of the greatest risks to their personal safety and equipment. Scores of journalists have been injured simply trying to cover the clashes on the streets. Two of our editors have had close calls while covering events in which police fired guns in their direction, but fortunately all of us have remained safe throughout this crisis.

As for costs, given declining print revenue, the Kyiv Post has dramatically cut staff and salaries and reduced the budget in many other areas. Continual cost-cutting is not a winning strategy for a newspaper, however.

We need the reporters, writers, editors, photographers and designers to bring top-notch news deserving of our "Independence. Community. Trust." motto.

Our current news editorial staff numbers 16 people, including occasional freelancers, which is not a large staff to cover all the political, economic and cultural events in Ukraine. We have five editors who write and edit stories, six staff writers, three photographers and a designer. The team is led by chief editor Brian Bonner.

The news team is supported by a similar number of employees on the commercial side -- advertising managers, subscription managers, a driver, office manager, designer, special projects manager and two accountants. This team is led by CEO Jakub Parusinski, a former chief editor who also is in charge of the entire operation.

Other costs include taxes, print and distribution expenses, office rent, equipment such as computers, printers and faxes, telephones, subscriptions, IT and other technical support for our servers and website. Nowadays, safety and protective gear are becoming musts for journalists, as are sophisticated technical systems to defend against increasingly common cyber attacks.

Even for a small business such as ours, the expenses are significant.

The Kyiv Post is the first news media outlet in Ukraine to introduce a paywall. In other nations, especially in Europe, paywalls are more common. An estimated one-third of American newspapers currently are charging for some content online.

It's not easy to get used to paying for a service that was once free. But we hope that readers and subscribers will value the Kyiv Post's position as one of the last independent sources of news in Ukraine, striving to adhere to the highest ethical and journalistic standards. 

We are also one of the few news outlets not owned by Ukraine's oligarchs, many of whom generously subsidize their outlets financially at the price of editorial independence.

Our owner and publisher, Mohammad Zahoor, is a British businessman with no political agenda. He insists on a non-partisan news policy and no endorsement of any political candidate or political parties in our editorials. The newspaper will never become an opposition or a pro-government newspaper, as many other news outlets in Ukraine have become. He also asks only that we break even financially.

Other than those reasonable conditions, the Kyiv Post journalists have editorial independence and are free to cover the news and write opinions, without fear of censorship, guided by our knowledge, skills and our best collective judgment.

After setting our introductory online subscription price at $36 a year in April 2013 -- the price of a single restaurant meal -- the Kyiv Post will be increasing the subscription price to $50 a year in February. We hope that readers will understand our financial need to take such a step and will find that $4.16 a month is affordable. We will also soon launch an option for readers to donate to our operations and we will appreciate any contributions. All profits are reinvested in the newspaper's operations.

Our online payment service uses state-of-the-art encryption security that has safely and successfully processed more than 1,100 payments since introduction last year. 

Anyone encountering service or payment problems should contact subscriptions manager Svitlana Kolesnikova at telephone +380 44 591-3408  or subscribe@kyivpost.com  or subscribe.kp(at)gmail.com. All of our contacts are available here and the entire staff stands ready to help.

We also welcome any suggestions for how we can improve our news coverage and our business model. We will continually review our policies, search for new revenue and cover Ukraine's news to the best of our abilities for our local and international audiences. We hope that you will continue to support us in this endeavor.

Sincerely,

CEO Jakub Parusinski

Chief Editor Brian Bonner

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