Seems like everyone is jumping on this bandwagon. The Washington Post “probably” will introduce a paywall in the middle of 2013, the paper reports — after parent company Chairman Donald Graham told an investor conference this week that he’s considering one. E.W. Scripps also told the confab that it will ask readers to pay for digital access in 14 newspaper markets. And now The Daily Beast is “exploring” metered access, it told Bloomberg. These aren’t isolated cases: The number of U.S. newspapers with a paywall “has at least doubled this year,” The Economist reports adding: “More than a quarter of newspapers now have one, and most big groups that do not have plans to charge for digital access.” Papers need to generate cash to make up for the decline in ad sales. The industry generated $23.9B in 2011, the lowest it had been since 1984. In addition, companies including The New York Times and Gannett have reported success with their paywalls. The effort at Gannett, the largest newspaper publisher, will result in the first uptick in six years in circulation revenue it told investors this week.
Starting in April non-subscribers will only be able to see 10 articles, slide shows or videos a month for free, down from 20, the paper says this morning. If you want more, then you’ll have to buy one of The Times’ digital subscriptions. Now brace yourself for the caveats: Even if you’re past the limit, you can still see an article for free if you reach it via a search engine, or an email or blog link — but you can only see five a day from some unnamed search engines. The NYTimes.com home page and section fronts also will be free to browse. Smartphone and tablet users will be able to see top news stories for free — but will have to subscribe to see anything else.
The Times tried to spin the news as sign of how well it’s doing in the digital world. One year after it erected its pay wall, the paper has 454,000 paid digital subscribers. “We knew that readers placed a high value on our journalism, and we anticipated they would respond positively to our digital subscription packages,” Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr says. Still, he has a lot riding on his ability to nudge online readers to pay — without giving print customers an incentive to switch to a lower-priced digital-only subscription.
Thanks to FishbowlLA for alerting me to this: LATimes.com will no longer be free. Today, the newsosaur Los Angeles Times announced plans for an online subscription service. It will cost $3.99 a week for non-subscribers. For this you get lazy and irrelevant coverage of Hollywood.