The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is pushing ahead with paid online content, launching a members-only paid website called PG+. It offers new content that intends to supplement rather than replace the paper's current website post-gazette.com.
PG+ will host "interactive features and exclusive content by Post-Gazette staffers above and beyond what the Post-Gazette already provides in its daily print and online versions." The Post-Gazette is thus working on the principle that it is better to offer readers something new when it comes to charging online, rather than trying to persuade them to pay for something that they currently receive free. The fact that PG+ will provide content not published in the print edition shows the Gazette's appreciation of the importance of its website.
An annual membership to PG+ costs $36 and monthly is $3.99. Members will have the chance to create their own profiles and interact with both journalists and other members of the community. Different sections of the site will offer exclusive sports, politics, entertainment and lifestyle content focused on the Pittsburgh area, and 'member perks' will include discounts at local retailers, restaurants and shows. There will also be an extra special offer each week, and invitations to members-only events such as "PG Talks" featuring the paper's columnists and reporters.
Print subscribers currently pay $104 for the paper for a year, and no discount on PG+ membership is mentioned. $36 seems a reasonable price for fans of local news to pay for a year, but will print subscribers feel short-changed?
As papers look for ways to monetise their online content, the idea of a membership scheme seems to be gaining ground: offering readers the chance to feel like a privileged part of the paper's community rather than asking them to pay for content. The New York Times has surveyed its subscribers on whether they would be willing to join a membership scheme that would offer premium ways of viewing the paper's content, and invitations to events, although notably no mention of additional content was made. The paper is also considering a seemingly separate paid online content scheme. The Guardian recently posted an ad for a manager for a new readers' club, and although few details of the scheme have emerged, it is expected that the club would offer benefits including exclusive online content and live events.
Other publishers will presumably be closely watching the progress of PG+: the idea of making money online from readers without losing advertising revenue by putting existing content behind a paywall could be a good one.