MediaNews Group, which publishes 57 daily newspapers around the U.S., unveiled a new online paywall model for 23 of its smaller newspaper Web sites, requiring online readers to pay for access to digital content. Unusual for the newspaper and magazine business, this includes people who subscribe to the print edition.
Under the new paywall system, which superficially resembles the one established by The New York Times site earlier this year, visitors to the MNG sites will get to see up to five articles for free per month.
After that, they will have to pay for further access. Visitors who aren't already subscribers to a print edition can choose to pay $5.99 per month or enjoy a slight discount with an annual fee of $59.99. Print subscribers only have to pay $1.99 per month or $19.99 annually.
The new paywalls are only being implemented at small and mid-sized newspapers -- MGN's bigger properties, like the Denver Post, San Jose Mercury News, Oakland Tribune, Salt Lake City Tribune and Long Beach Press-Telegram, will continue to offer unlimited free online access.
Affected newspapers include the Alamogordo Daily News and Carlsbad Current-Argus in New Mexico, the Lebanon Daily News and Chambersburg Public Opinion in Pennsylvania, and the Bennington Banner and Brattleboro Reformer in Vermont.
A recent survey by the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri-Columbia found that 25% of U.S. newspapers are already charging for some online content. That proportion could rise to 60% in a few years as publishers struggle to stabilize finances amid a continuing decline in print ad revenues, and only modest growth in online revenues.
The UMC survey found that the proportion is even higher among smaller newspapers, with 46% of small daily newspapers (circulation under 25,000) charging for online subscriptions of some kind, compared to 24% for newspapers with circulation over 25,000.