Month two progress report: Route 1 Reporter evolves

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Michael Theis/Route 1 Reporter

Downtown Hyattsville's Baltimore Avenue corridor.

It’s been a while since I’ve given you all an update on the scene behind-the-scenes at Route 1 Reporter. Part of that is because I’ve simply been so busy getting into the meat of the beat. But I’ve also been busy making tweaks to the site and its paywall infrastructure, some more visible than others. Here’s the rundown:

Introducing the “honor-system” group subscription rate

By popular demand, Route 1 Reporter has launched a new monthly subscription rate package intended for households, non-profits, city councils, government agencies and other entities that want to share Route 1 Reporter’s content internally. This idea was actually the brainchild of a local government official who felt guilty about copying, pasting and sharing Route 1 Reporter articles by email with a small group of local government executives while only paying the individual subscription rate, which does not permit this type of article sharing. This tier allows you to do exactly that with a clean conscience. It also allows you to share access to a single Patreon account to read Route 1 Reporter content, ideal for households to share a single account.

The group rate is $3 per reader per month, starting with a base-pledge of $6 per month.

There are already a few such organizations subscribed under the individual rate. If you are loathe to switch to the group rate, I understand. If you did so, that also means you’re one of my earliest supporters, so can let it slide for a little while. But it’d be really awesome if you switched. Just sayin’.

To calculate your monthly pledge amount under the group rate:

  1. Count the number of individuals with whom you plan to regularly distribute Route 1 Reporter clips.
  2. Multiply that number by $3.
  3. When prompted during the group-tier checkout process, use the “custom” Pledge Extra button to enter the number you calculated in step two, minus the cost of the $6 base charge.

As I hinted in the subheading, it’s an honor system rate. There are few resources available to me to track how you are sharing my articles, nor to verify the size of your internal audience nor to know if you are sharing them under an individual account. But I’ll be disappointed in you if I learn you’re cheating the system.

Pay first, then read

If you were a subscriber to Route 1 Reporter before roughly 11 p.m. on August 1, this change does not affect you in any meaningful way, but it’s worth a mention. From here on out, new subscribers will be charged their subscription fee on the day they sign up and subsequently charged on the first of the month thereafter. Previously, subscribers were charged only on the first of the month, no matter when they signed up. Essentially, readers were paying for the previous month’s work.

Under the new payment schedule, if a new reader subscribes to Route 1 Reporter on August 25 under the $5 per month individual tier, they will be charged $5 that day for their August subscription.  On September 1, the same subscriber would then be charged $5 for their forthcoming September subscription access.

The only way existing subscribers will be affected by this is if they choose to increase their subscription pledge mid-month.

For instance, if they subscribed to Route 1 Reporter in July, they paid their fees August 1 for access during the month of July, no matter when they joined. On August 1, I changed to the pay up-front schedule. Those same subscribers will still next be charged September 1, but they will be paying for their forthcoming site access.

But if one of those subscribers were to increase their pledge from $5 to $10 on August 15, they will be charged the difference of $5 on August 15 and the full $10 on September 1 and every first of the month thereafter.

This slight tweak in payment scheduling closes a loophole in my paywall that allowed spme unscrupulous subscribers to read articles without paying. Because people were not charged up front, readers could subscribe on the first of the month, gain access to Route 1 Reporter content, and then cancel their subscription before the start of the next month rolled around without being charged.

Aesthetics

Route 1 Reporter also switched to a new site layout this week. It’s not exactly where I want it to be yet – in fact, it’s not even close. It does provide a lot of features that a lot of WordPress templates lack, such as byline displays, improved photo caption display, and the ability to feature stories on the homepage. It still doesn’t look the best, especially if you are outside of the paywall and reading from a desktop machine, but those features will hopefully be addressed in the near future.

And of course, the news

July was a busy month for Route 1 Reporter on the news coverage side. Notable reporting includes my ongoing coverage of Mount Rainier Police Department’s financial investigation, and several big development stories up and down the corridor. Stay tuned! There’s a lot more to come.

Thanks again for your support.

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