Monday, May 3, 2010

Success of Pay Walls at Smaller Papers Is Good Sign for Print

NEW YORK ( -- If you want to know what paid content on the web can do for newspapers' paid circulation, keep your eye on places such as Lima, Ohio and Bend, Ore. If pay walls can't make it in these environments, they probably can't make it anywhere else.

The papers that are more likely to catch your attention, of course, include Rupert Murdoch's Times of London, which starts charging for full access to its site in June; The New York Times, which will charge its heaviest online readers starting next year; and even the Intelligencer Journal-Lancaster New Era, a mid-sized paper in Pennsylvania, in the next few weeks hopes to start charging out-of-towners who are heavy obituary readers. "It's roughly 5% of our page views," said Ernest Schreiber, online editor at LancasterOnline. "It seemed like it was a significant amount of our readership but not so much that if we upset people that it would really damage the site."

The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times have already proved that readers will pay for standout business news on the web, but if pay walls around general-interest news work in London, New York and Lancaster, Pa., maybe they'll work in many other places, too.

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