Another brick in the wall
The rapid rise of newspaper paywalls
ON OCTOBER 10th the Baltimore Sun will join a fast-growing club. The newspaper will start tracking the number of times people read its stories online; when they reach a limit of 15 a month, they will be asked to pay. Local bloggers may squawk about content wanting to be free. But perhaps not as much as they would have done a few months ago. There is a sense of inevitability about paywalls.
In April 2010 PaidContent, an online publication, found 26 American local and metropolitan newspapers charging for online access. Several times that number now do so. More than 100 newspapers are using Press+, an online payment system developed in part by a former publisher of the Wall Street Journal. MediaNews, a newspaper group, put up two paywalls in 2010; it has erected 23 so far this year.
Among national newspapers, paywalls are still rare, though the New York Times and the Times of London both have them. Most wall-building is being done by small local outfits. “Local newspapers are more vital to their communities, and they have less competition,” explains Ken Doctor, the author of “Newsonomics”.
The most ambitious architects are in Europe. Since May Slovakia has had a virtual national paywall—a single payment system that encompasses nine of the country’s biggest publications. Slovaks who want to read news online pay