Commentary

Hearst's Connecticut Newspapers Plan Paywall For 'Insider' Exclusives

Hearst Connecticut Media Group plans to add a paywall to a premium section of the websites for its six daily newspapers.

That “Insider” section will have exclusive content from the Connecticut Post, New Haven Register, Danbury News-Times, Stamford Advocate, Greenwich Time and Norwalk Hour. Its hard paywall won’t allow access to a handful of free stories before kicking in.

Paywalls and subscription sales have become a more important source of revenue for local newspapers that face a growing threat from digital rivals. The loss of readership and advertising has been blamed for the disappearance of local news coverage in hundreds of U.S. communities.

By creating a hybrid of paywall and free content, Hearst Connecticut aims to generate reader revenue, while also supporting “significant” web traffic that supports ad sales, Matt DeRienzo, vice president of news and digital content at Hearst Connecticut Media Group, told Publishing Insider.

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“We decided to create a premium section that engages readers with exclusive content and welcomes their participation,” he said. “We wanted to build a whole experience around that.”

Subscribers will receive an exclusive daily email newsletter that has a guide to its journalism and a behind-the-scenes look at decision-making.

In addition, “Insider” readers can take part in live chats with reporters, columnists and experts, as well as join a subscribers-only Facebook group. The publisher also will host monthly in-person meetups with subscribers and editors over coffee.

Readers who already subscribe to the print or digital editions of the newspapers will have access to the premium section for no extra costs. Digital subscribers get online access to all six newspapers.

In announcing the new paywall section, DeRienzo touted Hearst’s role as a community watchdog that has exposed government corruption, public-health risks and wasteful spending of taxpayer money.

“A significant investment goes into employing the reporters, photographers and editors who cover local schools and government, breaking news and crime, local sports, business and state issues,” he said. “Many readers want to support this kind of level of local journalism.”

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