The Seattle Times has officially joined the ranks of newpapers charging for unlimited online access. Visitors to Seattletimes.com are now notified that their access will end after reading an unspecified number of stories over the course of a month. At least one reader (Associated Press reporter Mike Baker) has encountered the paywall.

How much will it cost? Here’s a breakdown from a Seattle Times subscription page:

A “print+digital” package that includes Sunday home delivery, unlimited access to seattletimes.com, a digital replica of the Seattle Times print edition, and phone/tablet apps will go for $3.99/week after a five-week introductory price of 99 cents/week.

A “full digital access” package, including all of the above except the Sunday paper, will go for the same weekly rate, $3.99/week, after a four-week introductory price of 99 cents/week.

timesA la carte digital access will go for $3.49/week, offering access to any one of the paper’s digital products — seattletimes.com, the print replica or the smartphone/tablet apps.

The newspaper will also include full digital access with print subscriptions. For purposes of comparison, the paper’s current offer for my area of the city is $6.40/week for seven-day delivery after a five-week introductory price of $2.99/week.

How much content will the paper be giving away for free online? Seattle Times spokeswoman Jill Mackie told us previously that it depends, in part, on what people read.

She explained at the time, “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.”

One of our former colleages from the Seattle P-I newspaper, Candace Heckman Barron, wrote an op-ed in the Seattle Times this weekend in support of the paywall plan.

“Sure, I can get a lot of free coverage from television and neighborhood blogs, but none of that has ever been as reliable as a professional newspaper report prepared by experienced journalists,” she wrote.

I have a somewhat different perspective, as I mentioned when asked about this topic during a recent segment on KUOW radio. Simply charging for something that was previously free isn’t exactly an exercise in entrepreneurial creativity. What additional value will Seattle Times digital subscribers be getting for their money? Upgraded apps? More reporters?

How about a tote bag, at least?

But ultimately what matters is the reaction of Seattle Times readers. Seattle Times spokeswoman Mackie said in a recent email, “Generally speaking, we are confident in our digital subscription strategy and anticipate it will meet or surpass our expectations.”

Comments

  • jim streeter

    just me – or does $200/year seem a lot of a newspaper? then again they are offering me classified ads and comics, so maybe i’m wrong….

    • Paul_Owen

      I’ll pay. But I agree with Streeter that this inflection point is an opportunity to do something new, not just paywall what was previously free. The subscription should include exclusive opt-in deals (like Groupon, but for subscribers only) from Times’ advertisers like last minute theater tix, 50% off sports events, hotel rooms, airfare, etc.

  • http://twitter.com/fijiaaron Aaron Evans

    The theory is that if anyone actually still wants to read it, they’ll pay for it. I’m inclined to agree. Anyone that uses an online copy of a local newspaper instead of any of the available free sources, must really crave their reformatting of AP wire services or amateur blogs.

    • askbillmitchell

      Here is another theory. Seattle Times will abandoned this silly plan, once they find their content will be scraped and placed on websites outside the jurisdiction of the US government. Some entities need to learn this lesson the hard way.

      • Archibald Cunningham

        In the US Govt’s not so humble opinion, no web site, accessible on the world wide web from within the US, is ‘outside’ their jurisdiction. They claim ownership & mastery of the whole thing. And I’m not joking.

  • ryan

    I’ll pay $3.99/month for GeekWire :)

  • NWD

    Aggregated free twitter feeds make a decent skimmable substitute… updated twice a day. http://www.northwestdaily.com

  • Mike_Acker

    paywall=captive audience : most of us have limited budgets. making a habit of paying to access then becomes a prison .

    i think everyone recognizes this . the “digital age” isn’t just a new playing field it’s completely different as it is not constrained by physical media . for that reason rules based on physical media are no longer applicable .

  • Jon

    There’s always seattlepi.com now the choice for online Seattle based news content is simple

  • SadSociety

    The thing I don’t get is that aggregators and data scrappers are happy to take news from news sites behind paywalls and give it away for free, and people will happily read it to avoid paying a miserly sum, but there is no consideration given to the cost it takes to hire a newsroom of journalists to create that content. If you want to read an article from the Seattle Times, pay for it. News isn’t free. Never has been.

  • Corruptos como el Infierno

    Well I guess that says it ALL…to no longer read The Seattle Times. Sounds like greed to me.

  • Brian jones

    I have been using it lately, I think they made it free again…

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