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The Globe and Mail

Globe to charge readers for online content

Globe and Mail publisher Phillip Crawley

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

The Globe and Mail is moving to charge readers for its online content, following a trend established by the New York Times and other major publications.

Publisher and chief executive officer Phillip Crawley told an all-staff meeting Thursday that the paper will implement a metered paywall system this fall, asking readers to pay if they read more than a certain number of articles each month.

The number of free articles per month hasn't yet been announced, nor has pricing.

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"We have chosen to go for the big move rather than do it a step at a time," Mr. Crawley said. "Based on what we see going on in the advertising market, we've decided to go for it now. We had already made the decision, it was a case of how quickly we would do it."

Mr. Crawley said the news organization had planned to implement a metered system for Report on Business content this fall, but accelerated plans to put all of the organization's content on a meter in response to an unpredictable advertising market that has seen both print and digital sales drop this spring at publishers in both North America and Europe.

Publishers have increasingly looked to paywalls to make up for declining ad revenues, emboldened by the apparent success of the New York Times. That company is expected to reap an $85-million haul from its online subscribers in 2012.

Mr. Crawley said the Globe has "obviously learned from their experience," which has seen the Times reduce its number of free articles per month to 10 from the original 20. The Times doesn't count an article against a reader's count if they arrived at the Times site through social media services or search engines, and subscribers to the paper get free access.

Postmedia Network Inc. has experimented with metered paywalls at its daily newspapers in Montreal and Victoria, and said last month it would also put paywalls up at the Ottawa Citizen, Vancouver Sun and Vancouver Province.

Mr. Crawley also told employees that the paper would ask staff to take unpaid leaves this summer in an attempt to temporarily reduce costs. Details of the furloughs were not disclosed, and the company is working with the union to figure out how the system would work. The company has given employees a week to decide if they want time off.

"The union is on one hand glad we're not talking about permanent layoffs because they've seen what's happening in the rest of the industry," he said. "I don't know how long this slowdown is going to last, and I hope by this fall we're back to a regular level of business and everyone is back to work on a new year. At this stage I couldn't give you an accurate forecast of that."

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Union chair Sue Andrew said she hopes the furloughs will help the paper control costs.

"We're hopeful that the request for unpaid time off will significantly reduce the company's need for further cost-cutting and that the company will hold talks with the union to minimize the effects of any temporary staff reductions," she said.

Furloughs have been implemented at newspapers in the United States since the recession, as papers try to hold on to their employees until business improves. Gannett Co. Inc., which publishes papers in major cities as well as USA Today, recently announced a round of furloughs that will see employees take one week without pay by June 24. It's the fourth time in four years that USA Today workers have been asked to take unpaid leaves.

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