It seems "paywall" will be the word of 2011.
After the long-awaited and extensively-covered New York Times' metered paywall, two more newspapers announced their plans to introduce digital subscriptions.
The Hearst Corporation is considering a paywall for sfgate.com, the online portal of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Bay Citizen reported, citing Chronicle staffers who have been briefed on the company's plans.
No details are available about when the digital subscription will be introduced (possibly at the end of the month) neither about what will be the monthly subscription fee. However "newsroom employees said the paper would likely establish a "hard" paywall, rather than a metered plan that lets readers click on a certain number of articles before cutting off access", the article said.
The article also reported one staffer said that over half of the stories now available for free on sfgate.com could be cordoned off by the new paywall, especially longer, investigative stories that appear on Sundays and many of the paper's popular columns. The paper currently embargoes such stories, printing them in the newspaper before publishing them on the site two days later. Shorts, daily news and breaking stories instead, would likely remain free of charge.
A digital subscription plan for the newspaper's new iPad application will be also roll out along with the paywall.
The Bay Citizen article also pointed out that, according to Hearst, "The Gate" is among the nation's top 10 newspaper websites, attracting more than 12 million unique visitors each month.
Will the paywall affect these figures?
Having announced its plan to charge online last month, the UK's biggest-selling regional newspaper, the Express and Star, has launched today, April 5, a part-paywall at £12.18 a month for a digital-only subscription, as journalism.co.uk reported.
Breaking news is still available on Express & Star's website but other content, such as photo galleries, match analysis and real time traffic and travel is no longer free and will only be available on the paid-for "premium" site and the new "intelligent '24' app" for iPhone and iPad, the article reported.
In the ongoing dilemma (to charge or not to charge), positive news arrives from the Augusta Chronicle, which has experience a five-percent increase in traffic since implementing its own paywall, as well as from the Financial Times, which has recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of its paywall.
After big initial losses at the introduction of their full paywalls, the UK Times and Sunday Times have since experienced some growth, gaining 29,000 subscribers over the past five months.
Amongst others, the Telegraph also announced it is considering starting to charge online content.
According to former NPR chief executive and ex-head of NYTimes.com Vivian Schiller, who spoke at the 12th International Symposium on Online Journalism, "the conditions are finally right to give newspaper paywalls a fair shake".
Poynter's Romenesko blog has reported the entire optimistic speech here.