Four of Canada’s highest-profile newspapers threw the switch on paywalls Tuesday, asking their readers to pay for the content they are reading online.
By the end of the day The Ottawa Citizen, Vancouver Province, Vancouver Sun and National Post will all have caps on the number of articles readers can access per month before being asked to pay.
“You can’t spend millions of dollars on content and just give it away,” Postmedia Network Inc. chief executive officer Paul Godfrey said last week when discussing the chain’s plan to charge for online content. “Otherwise, you’re not going to stick around.”
The papers will initially charge 99 cents a month for full access to their sites and iPad apps. Afterward, it will cost $7.95/month or $79.50/year for the Vancouver papers. The Citizen will charge $9.95/month or $99.50/year.
Anyone who doesn’t pay will still be able to read breaking news on each paper’s site, but will be limited to 15 non-breaking news articles each month.
Print subscribers will have full access to all of the paper’s digital products.
A membership to one paper won’t provide readers with access to the chain’s other papers – they would need to buy another subscription for each paper they want to access online.
“About 1.7 million unique visitors read our website each month. Others access us on smartphones and tablets and, across all platforms, we generated more than 43 million page views in July alone,” Vancouver Sun editor Harold Munro wrote in a note to readers.
“We trust you will want to be a part of this, and continue to recognize the value provided in the breadth of in-depth journalism, local news and features found only in the pages of The Sun.”
The National Post will only ask for money from international visitors to its website – it will offer access for 99 cents for the first month, and then $9.95/month afterward. This international model will also be applied to the Gazette in Montreal, which already has a metered paywall for domestic readers.
Newspapers across North America – including The Globe and Mail – are scrambling to monetize their digital content to make up for declining print advertising revenue. The industry has been emboldened by the success of the New York Times, which has about 500,000 paying subscribers that is generating meaningful revenue for the company.
“A growing number of major newspapers around the world, including the New York Times and London’s Times and Guardian, have adopted pay models for digital content. Today, The Sun follows suit,” Mr. Munro wrote. “This new metered system will help generate revenue to invest in the insightful, award-winning print and digital journalism expected from the biggest and best news team in Western Canada. We remain committed to investigative reporting and working to ensure transparency from governments and public agencies.”