Local daily paper joins others in erecting a cyber paywall

Trend reveals struggle for revenue online

By Shane Cohn 04/11/2013

The Ventura County Star recently announced to its advertisers late last month that the publication will be erecting a paywall for much of its online content.

On March 25, a letter from the advertising department stated that “most content will be reserved for subscribers. In addition, some important breaking news stories and features will be available without a subscription, but only for a short time.”

Current newspaper subscribers will have complete access to online news, the letter stated, and there will also be digital-only subscriptions available.

Margie Cochrane, publisher of the VC Star, was not available to comment about when the paywall would be erected, though sources at the Star indicated it would happen after the end of the month.


The decision to implement a paywall has been trending for daily newspapers around the country, as publications are tinkering with ways to drive revenue when online ad sales are not matching what print ads were once able to produce. While digital newspaper advertising is supposed to be the future of ad revenue, Pew Research Center’s State of the News Media 2013 reported that in 2012 newspapers lost $16 in print ads for every $1 earned in digital ads.

The report noted that 450 of the nation’s 1,380 dailies have started or announced plans for some kind of paid content subscription or paywall plan. Major publications such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle and the Washington Post have all implemented some form of a paywall. The Los Angeles Times last year issued a metered paywall that allows readers to access 15 stories a month without a paid subscription.

“The metered product,” said Joe Wirt, director of affiliate relations for the California Newspaper Publishers Association, “is giving skeptical and thrifty consumers a way to get a taste of it, and to see hopefully, the content you find locally and nowhere else is worth something.”

While much of the populace is used to reading their news online for free, Wirt said the paywall is something that most newspapers in California are considering. Because people will be paying for a product that was once free, Wirt said, readers will likely be judgmental about their purchase and publications will need to take advantage of the different facets of multimedia that the print experience doesn’t offer.

“You’re going to have to up your game a bit,” said Wirt. “They [newspapers] are all looking to see what the other guy is doing, to see how their market will bear.”  

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