McClatchy Newspapers Plan Paywalls

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McClatchy Co., one of the nation’s largest newspaper publishers, is planning to introduce online paywalls at its newspaper Web sites, according to an internal memo first obtained by Jim Romenesko. The news comes as other big publishers implement online paywalls at newspapers nationwide.

McClatchy has 30 daily newspapers, including The Miami Herald, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Charlotte Observer, Kansas City Star and Sacramento Bee.

In the memo to employees, McClatchy Vice President for News Anders Gyllenhaal wrote that “after more than a year of experiments and analysis on pay models, McClatchy newspapers will begin a robust test of a pay plan that looks like the right balance for our Web sites.”

While acknowledging that online paywalls risk driving away some light users, Gyllenhaal said early experiments confirmed that many heavy users are willing to pay for access -- including multimedia subscriptions covering print, Web, smartphones and e-editions.

Like most other publishers, McClatchy will give online readers free access to a limited number of articles before asking them to pay for further access, although there is no word yet on what that number will be. The first batch of five newspapers will introduce their online paywalls about two months from now, using the online payment system created by Press+, which has already been tested at The Modesto Bee.

Online paywalls can provide newspaper publishers with much-needed revenue to help offset continuing declines in print advertising revenue -- and McClatchy is hardly alone.

The New York Times Co. has introduced paywalls at its flagship newspaper as well as The Boston Globe, while Tribune Co. has introduced them at the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and Los Angeles Times

In February, Gannett community publishing president Bob Dickey revealed plans to create online paywalls for all its community newspapers, numbering 82 in all. Nine Gannett community papers are already charging for content.

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