Sunday, February 20, 2005

An Open Letter to the Columbus Dispatch

On Sunday, a column by Dispatch editor Benjamin Marrison touted many advances of the website and asked for feedback. Like most columns on the Dispatch site, you need a paid subscription to access it.

That prompted this feedback:


Mr. Marrison,

I read your column in the Columbus Dispatch today commenting on your web site,, and asking for feedback.

I wanted to take a couple of minutes to give you some feedback.

I agree that the site it one of the top Ohio based newspaper sites. Obviously it is the premier site for OSU news. It also has very strong coverage of Ohio and national politics.

Recently, I have noticed the real time updates for breaking local news. Again, another step forward and a feather in your cap.

Unfortunately, most Ohioans - and non-Ohioans for that matter - will never know this. And the reason is simple. It is your policy of charging nonsubscribers to access the site and limiting access to your archive.

I run a blog at It was started after the November election and provides a conservative view on Ohio politics. I routinely excerpt, link, and comment on articles written in Ohio's newspapers, the Dispatch included.

Unfortunately, because most of my readers do not have a Dispatch subscription, I am often forced to link to your competitors. Even when you have superior coverage. As one example, your analysis of the distribution of voting machines in Franklin county was outstanding and of interest to many outside the state. Unfortunately, few had the chance to recognize that fact.

The Akron Beacon Journal has also started to post breaking stories on their site and I have begun to link to them. The Enquirer is also a good source that I have started to use.

I understand your need to make a profit and I have no idea how much you make on your web subscriptions versus the ad revenue from your site. However, I am writing this email so that you understand that your actions are driving readers to your competitors.

You have the writing and reporters to make the Dispatch Ohio's premier news source. Your access policy however, will not allow it.

If you don't believe me, ask your own columnist, Michael Meckler. On his blog,, he has recently linked to articles in the Enquirer and area television stations instead of the corresponding articles in the Dispatch. I assume he did so for the same reasons I did, so my readers can have access to the original source.

The blogs are not your competitors. They can drive traffic to your site that would never visit otherwise. If you allow them.

In fact, by adding a Trackback feature that is common among blogs and is now starting to take hold on some mainstream sites, you would be able to see who is linking to your site and why. And bloggers would like it because it would also drive traffic to their sites as well. Taking this action would easily set your site apart from Ohio's other news sites.

If you truly want to become the premier source, I strongly encourage you to open access to your site and find other ways to make it blog-friendly. If you don't, you will have the best site no one has ever seen.

I will be posting this letter to my blog and look forward to your reply.