New York Times Co.-owned newspaper Telegram and Gazette, based in Worcester, Massachusetts, has concluded plans to erect a paywall on its news website. According to a letter to readers, published on the newspaper website: "beginning (16/08/2010) we will charge for access to our locally produced articles on telegram.com."
Paywalls are no longer a new feature of larger newspapers, such as the Wall Street Journal; however, putting up paywalls on smaller newspaper websites is a growing trend, as newspaper companies seek non-advertising revenue. Publisher Bruce Gaultney and Editor Leah Lamson write that "we are not the first, and we surely will not be the last media company, to make this decision as newspapers make the transition to complete multimedia companies...business is labor intensive and the financial support we need to fulfill our mission to you cannot (and in all fairness, should not) be borne just by our print subscribers and advertisers."
However, as studies have continually shown, readers still seem reluctant to pay for digital news, and comments left on telegram.com leave no doubts about this. One reader thinks, "as someone who moved from the Worcester area 20 years ago, but still likes to think of the area as home, I guess I'll be looking for a new source to keep current on the news- I won't be paying to read an article because I think I recognize a name in a byline." Another writes that, "I will now rely on the local Spencer Leader, Barre Gazette, and word of mouth to alert me news & happenings."
Not all comments are negative, as readers who already have a paid subscription to the print version have full access to the online content. "As a paid subscriber who has been supporting the free online access, I am most pleased with this new policy," a reader stated. However, payment is not the only issue because as another subscriber explained, "I am not greatly upset since we subscribe to the print edition anyway. It will just be a nuisance factor since we now will have to register, think of a password, etc." Someone else predicts that if traffic to the website drops too low ad revenues will plummet. The Times' online readership for example, dropped by up to 84% between February and July.
Readers will need to register to read up to 10 local news articles in a month or to pay for unlimited access to the local news report. Payment can be $14.95 monthly or $1 for one day.