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Knight Center


More U.S. newspapers installing paywalls as trend of charging for online content continues

The trend to charge newspaper readers for access to online content continues as the MediaNews Group is the latest to U.S. company to unveil plans for paywalls, PaidContent.Org reports.

MediaNews, which owns 57 newspapers in 11 states, has started charging online readers of 23 small- and medium-sized newspapers in California, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Massachusetts and Vermont under a metered model, said PaidContent.Org. Subscribers of the print edition will even be charged $1.99 a month or $19.99 a year, but non-subscribers will face a monthly fee of $5.99 or $59.99 for a year.

The move by MediaNews follows a plan introduced by Lee Enterprises on Aug. 1 to install a metered paywall system for its Montana newspapers the Helena Independent Record, the Billings Gazette, the Montana Standard in Butte, the Missoulian in Missoula, the Ravalli Republic, as well as the Casper Star Tribune in Wyoming. Lee Enterprises has also been in the news recently as it severed ties with 52 employees at the Arizona Daily Star while also grappling with more than $1 billion in debt and trying to stave off filing for bankruptcy protection.

In Hawaii, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser recently introduced a tiered pay structure that charges residents of Oahu (the Star-Advertiser is the only daily newspaper on that island) $9.99 a month, but access for residents from other Hawaiian islands will be $4.95 a month and $1.95 for readers from outside of Hawaii, the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) reports. The Star-Advertiser's moves sparked a small price war as an online news site, the Oahu-based Civil Beat, responded by dropping its monthly fee from $19.95 to $9.95, CJR noted.

The Dallas Morning News installed a modified paywall earlier this year, as did the New York Times when it introduced its scheme, a move that has been receiving positive reviews lately. Poynter.Org's Jeff Sonderman has suggested that the Times' purposely porous paywall seems to be effective because it encourages readers to try the website. "It turns out people will pay for things even when payment is not required," Sonderman said. "Motivations such as convenience, duty or appreciation are more compelling than coercion."

CJR's Felix Salmon believes the Times' paywall — with an emphasis on "pay", he says, and not on "wall" — works because it is "open and inviting" as opposed to the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, which operate "on the theory that the pain of not reading their content will force people to pay."


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