According to a post on Media Life Magazine, three hundred newspapers around the United States has placed a paywall on the online version of the publication. With a bit under 1,400 daily newspapers left in the United Stated according to a Pew study, that means approximately one fifth have adopted a paywall to prevent free access to articles published online. While large organizations like The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times led the charge with the transition to the paywall structure, the majority of the newspapers adopting the revenue building format have been much smaller. Gannett Company, the parent company for eighty newspapers, announced plans to roll out a paywall on all properties accept for USA Today. Lee Enterprises and McClatchy, two other major parent companies for newspapers, have also announced plans to launch metered paywalls in various markets.
According to Mashable, The New York Times had about half a million digital subscribers around July 2012 and have seen moderate growth in the subscriber base over the past fifteen months. With digital subscriptions priced between $15 to $35 each month, that means the Times is bringing in approximately $7.5 million to $17.5 million dollars each month off digital subscriptions. Over an entire year, the figure would be somewhere in between $90 million to $210 million. In addition, limiting online access is partly responsible for the eight percent increase in circulation revenue of the print version over the last quarter.
The structured paywall plans that The New York Times offers are focused on different types of mobile access. While the full $35 monthly fee provides access to the Times on all mobile devices, readers can also choose between a smartphone plan or a tablet plan. For instance, if a reader only wanted to read The New York Times on their iPad, they would have to pay for the $20 version of the paywall. Alternatively, smartphone users get a cheaper rate at $15 likely due to the smaller screen size.
The Chicago Tribune has plans to roll out a new version of the site this year and will require users to register in order to “access premium features such as columnists, reviews, in-depth and investigative reporting and new content from outside news sources.” Anyone that hasn’t registered for the site will still be able to access breaking news and other basic content, but will be closed off from other portions of the site.
One major major newspaper that’s continuing to resist a transition to the online paywall system is the Washington Post. According to GigaOm, the Post is extremely different from other newspapers. Rather than being able to encourage an increase in circulation revenue of the print version by limiting access to the site, the majority of the Posts’s online visitors are outside the Washington D.C. area.
Since the Post only circulates in print around Washington D.C., there’s no upside to limiting access to the site. Rather than invest in a technology that limits readership, management at the Post have been developing ways to increase Web readership through social channels. The Washington Post‘s Facebook social-reader app, for instance, is designed to bring more traffic from Facebook to the site.