Seattle Times online paywall to start rolling out in March

Updated below with details on pricing and access.

The Seattle Times in mid-March will join the growing legions of daily newspapers that charge for unrestricted access to their primary websites, according to a column by Seattle Times executive editor David Boardman in an advance edition of the Sunday newspaper.

“The math no longer adds up,” writes Boardman in the column, which isn’t yet available online. “We need to evolve in the way we do business, just as we have in the way we deliver our content to you.”

[Update, 10:45 p.m.: Boardman's column is now online.]

Digital subscriptions to seattletimes.com will be available at no extra charge to existing and new print subscribers, according to the column. Subscriptions will include access to the newspaper’s smartphone and tablet apps.

Standalone digital subscriptions will also be available for purchase by people who don’t subscribe to the print edition. Boardman’s column doesn’t give the planned prices for standalone digital subscriptions.

Readers who don’t subscribe will still be able to access seattletimes.com “on a limited basis,” writes Boardman. “But if you visit the site repeatedly, you will ultimately encounter a barrier requiring enrollment.”

“Of course, we realize that nobody likes having to pay for something they’ve been receiving for free,” he writes. “But we believe that if you stop for just a moment to contemplate how important The Times is to the vitality and civility of the Puget Sound region, you might even feel good about your contribution to sustaining the content you value.”

Update, 11:20 p.m.: Seattle Times spokeswoman Jill Mackie provided these details on the pricing for standalone digital subscriptions: “There will be an introductory offer @ $.99/week for 4 weeks. The regular pricing will be $3.99/week.”

On the question of how much content non-subscribers will be able to access, Mackie says it’s “a more complex answer than you might think.” She explains, “It really depends on the content used by individuals. The Seattletimes.com home page, comics, index pages, photo galleries, video content, entertainment listings, paid listings and the classified sights will be unmetered. Metered content includes news and opinion content, blogs and live chats. The mix of metered and unmetered content the individual uses will determine how much content they will see before encountering the paywall. Infrequent users or users of unmetered content will likely not be impacted by this change.”

  • blagdorf

    I’ll be moving to the online Seattle P.I. newspaper.

  • http://www.adamlieb.me/ Adam Lieb

    Wonder if that means we will lose our husky blog!

    • http://twitter.com/karldotcom karldotcom

      I am sure you will have to pay to read Condotta and the Husky Blog….that is one of the most popular sections of the website!

      • http://www.adamlieb.me/ Adam Lieb

        Can I just pay bob directly?

  • http://twitter.com/BaronSchaaf Baron Schaaf

    Interesting. I already pay for a Kindle subscription mostly because I want there to be at least one place in town with a wide range of relatively in-depth reporting. I do hope that will be included.

  • http://twitter.com/BaronSchaaf Baron Schaaf

    Interesting. I already pay for a Kindle subscription, mostly because I recognize the economics of the situation, and I want there to be at least one place with wide coverage in consistent beats. I do hope those count.

  • Guest

    What’s the “Seattle Times”? I think I speak for everyone I know when I say I’ve been living in this town for over 5 years and I’ve never heard of it.

    • guest

      … and you’re proud that you’re ignorant?

  • http://blog.findwell.com Kevin Lisota

    Can’t they just setup a pay subscription directly to all of the syndicators who provide their content? Might as well cut out the middleman and pay AP, LA Times and the Washington Post directly.

    • Bill

      I don’t think anyone reads the Seattle Times for the national and international news. For me, it is local sports and local news. They could leave out 2/3rds of the paper by volume and I would not notice. But the good local coverage needs to be paid for and I’m willing to do so.

      • http://www.facebook.com/david.queenann David Queenann

        You can get local sports news on the local radio and television station websites.And, for higher profile pieces, ESPN, which has local options.

  • http://WiredPen.com/ kegill

    Commentary on this story – now that Boardman’s column is online: http://wiredpen.com/2013/02/23/seattle-times-to-erect-paywall/

  • Guest

    Jill’s comment, which she repeated on the Seattle Times’s own web site, refers to a Sunday-only print subscription which would start now and include paywall access next month. Digital-only subscription pricing is still yet to be announced.

    • http://geekwire.com Todd Bishop

      Thanks, I’m checking on this. There wasn’t any ambiguity in my question, so if there’s confusion on this point, the confusion is at the Times.

      • BillyBilly

        To add to that confusion, if you go straight to their subscriptions page, avoiding the intro deal, you can get Sunday-only (including full digital access) for just $3.15 a month.

  • Seattlesnoop

    Goodbye seattletimes, hello google news bylines

  • Braxton_Leo

    Private browsing works wonders :-)

  • http://twitter.com/chrisamccoy Chris McCoy

    With the current state of content management systems for online newspapers (the digital printing press), this is best route for immediate monetization. I would encourage them to borrow the leaky (viral paywall) model pioneered by the NYT, though.

    The CMS for online newspapers needs to be re-imagined. Display is dying. If the Seattle Times and others had access to same/similar social data as the Facebook’s and Twitters of the world then native + sponsored ad units and transactional local commerce ad units could replace the display.

    Newspapers need a new CMS. I see the future of the paywall as a social data paywall.

  • Paul_Owen

    Is news coverage trivial? Could we live without it? I think we’ll explore this question for the next 5 years. Either somebody innovates on a new digital model (similar to Chris McCoy’s comment) or the populace finally gets fed up with free “news” and revolts en masse to paid news services from our new digital overlords at Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft.

  • http://www.facebook.com/david.queenann David Queenann

    I’m not sure how focusing on a traditional business model that failed with the advent of the Internet is “evolving.” Physical subscription papers were destroyed by the online medium, but they are now intent to re-create that model online. The problem is, on the Internet they aren’t just competing with newspapers. The local radio and television stations also have online presence with local news in written article format on them. As a result, why on Earth would I need to pay the Seattle Times for local news. What do they bring to the table that is so special that I need to spend money on them? Being a “newspaper” isn’t a corner on the online news market.