Readers clicking through to some stories
on USA Today are in for a rude surprise: A notice saying the article is ”only available to USA Today subscribers.” The Gannett flagship product is now charging
for some content after providing everything for free.
The paper is offering an all-digital subscription for $4.99 per month, according to the subscribe area on the site. This jumps to $9.99 after the first three months.
Or, consumers may choose the ad-free Digital All Access: $7.99 per month, jumping to $12.99 per month after the first three months.
Many of USA Today’s stories, including breaking news, will remain free, but the paper is asking for support for its premium content.
“Your subscription is an investment in quality journalism that's worth paying for, journalism that strengthens our communities and our nation,” wrote Nicole Carroll, editor in chief of USA Today, and Maribel Perez Wadsworth, publisher of USA Today and president of USA Today Network, in a column posted July 7.
Roughly 90 million unique visitors access USA Today’s digital platforms per month, the authors claim.
The move to a pay wall is hardly unusual: Gannett’s other titles have them, as do many major publications, particularly those providing premium business material.
For instance, Reuters announced a plan to charge $34.99 per month for content, but postponed that plan because it reportedly conflicts with an arrangement to supply content to Refinitive. The two sides are in talks, Reuters reported last week.
There is a certain annoyance factor caused by pay walls. But people apparently are willing to pay: Hard paywalls — those that force the user to subscribe to continue reading — pull a conversion rate that is 10 times higher than the one for soft paywalls, according to a study by Piano.
In addition to the stories, USA Today invites readers to “join our conversation,” Carroll and Perez Wadsworth write. “The subscriber-only newsletter, Your Week with USA TODAY, gives you a unique look into the newsroom. It also ensures you get to read any subscriber-only stories you may have missed.”
Subscribers will also enjoy “priority and first access as we begin scheduling subscriber-only events and experiences,” they continue. “Be on the lookout for more subscriber-focused products, especially around our sports content.”
The story announcing the pay wall was free.