Stars and Stripes Offers Free Electronic Newspaper
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 30, 2004 Service members who don't have access to the Stars and Stripes newspaper but do have access to a computer can now go online to read or download an exact replica of the paper at no charge.
Stars and Stripes officials said the electronic version of the newspaper is an effort to reach readers in remote areas.
Stars and Stripes launched the free service just in time to salute service members during Military Appreciation Month, which is celebrated in May. Free online versions of the newspaper's European, Pacific and Middle East editions became available starting April 26.
Tom Kelsch, the newspaper's publisher, said the free online newspaper is geared to service members in remote locations, but that any service member anywhere in the world, as well as family members, can use the service.
"We have many military (people) stationed in places where it just isn't practical to get the printed edition to them, and this is a way to be able to reach (them) wherever in the world they're stationed," Kelsch explained, as long as they have a computer and Internet access so they can access the electronic version.
Service members and their families can read the paper online or download it in the .pdf file format at the estripes.osd.mil Web site. Officials recommend that readers who want to print the paper and read it that way use the "fit to paper" option when printing. The site also offers free access to past newspapers up to seven days.
Kelsch said the electronic newspaper is a cost-effective way to get the Stars and Stripes to service members at bases in isolated place overseas, such as Iceland or Crete, where delivery is expensive. He said it is also a way for the newspaper to reach service members stateside at bases "where circulation is low or the paper is not offered."
Kelsch pointed out that offering Stars and Stripes free online to service members does not mean the printed edition is going away. He said evidence indicates most people still want to hold a newspaper in their hands, and that the online version really is most valuable to people who can't get the paper otherwise.
Printed editions of the paper still will be delivered to service members in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, where computer access is limited, he said. Each day nearly 45,000 copies of the paper are delivered throughout the Middle East region, and plans call for increasing that number, he said. The newspaper delivers an estimated 25,000 copies to Iraq, another 3,500 to Afghanistan, and 15,000 to Kuwait, he added.
Kelsch said he expects Stars and Stripes to make little, if any, revenue from the venture, although some advertising revenue may carry over to the online edition. He emphasized that the primary reason for the free offer is to help the newspaper fulfill its mission is to get the paper out to service members.
"We have a mission to serve, and we intend to serve that mission," he said. "This is a way that we can do it very well, and so we're going to do it."
Last year, like many newspapers in the country, Stars and Stripes began offering a paid subscription service for the electronic version of its daily paper: $15 per week, 13 weeks for $48.75, or 50 cents per issue weekdays and 75 cents on Sunday. Kelsch admitted that few readers subscribe to the Stars and Stripes electronic edition, and that he's not sure how many will log on for the free editions.
He said other newspapers in the industry are getting similar results from online subscriptions. "Other newspapers that use electronic editions are getting about the same or fewer results that we were getting," he said.