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Monday, January 26, 2015

The Indianapolis Star's online subscription service

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

The Indianapolis Star needs to move into the 21st century with its web content.The service is stuck in a late 1990's mentality that is not friendly to paying customers and is far too clunky.

A couple weeks ago, I subscribed to the Star's website, and immediately regretted that decision. My understanding (from talking to a customer service representative before I subscribed) was that all of the Star's content was on its website. This is simply not true. At least some of what is in the print edition never shows up on the website, though it is in the e-paper. The thing is, though, that I do not like the e-paper. It is not nearly as user-friendly as the website. It is clunky and it is slow. It is not possible to open multiple articles in multiple tabs.

From a technical standpoint, the website is far better.

The Star has a soft paywall, much like the Washington Post and other newspapers - you can read so many articles per month before you have to pay for the content. My understanding was that I could read unlimited articles and see content that you cannot see without a subscription on the website itself. That is not true. Either the representative did not understand my question or she was mistaken.

I do not mind the soft paywall, and I would not mind if some content was visible only to subscribers. I have no problem whatsoever with a hard paywall. Newspapers do need to make money, after all. Our local Herald-Times puts the vast majority of the content behind a paywall. What I do mind is not getting all of the content on the website, and being forced to use a technically inferior product to get that content. In the year 2015, it is inexcusable that all of the content in the print edition is not posted on the website, especially for paying subscribers.

I am not going to cancel my subscription, but I am certainly not going to renew it. I barely use the e-paper and it is frustrating not knowing what I am missing if I only use the website. If I did not pay for access, that would not bother me. Because I am a paying customer, it is very annoying. The Star needs to dump this e-paper nonsense and focus on putting all of their content on their website. A list of "what was published today" (like is on the Herald-Times, Washington Post, New York Times and many other newspaper sites) would also be a dramatic improvement.

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