May 14, 2013 6:20 pm
Updated: May 14, 2013 6:28 pm

Postmedia expands online paywall to remaining publications

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EDMONTON – Postmedia Inc. has announced it’s extending its digital pay metre to all of its newspapers across Canada.

As of Tuesday, readers of the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald will now have to pay for online content.

The paywall is similar to what the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Globe and Mail have already put in place: 10 free articles per month before readers hit the paywall. After reading eight stories users receive a warning they are about to run out.

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Print subscribers will have full access to the website for free.

“This is very much where newspapers are going these days in terms of asking readers to help pay for the content that it costs us a lot of money to generate,” said Lucinda Chodan, editor-in-chief of the Edmonton Journal.

“I believe Edmonton readers are vastly fair and well-informed. When they understand that the idea is that we are not asking them to pay a huge amount of money, but we are asking them to help pay for the content that costs us millions of dollars every year to generate, I think they will be accepting of that.”

According to a Postmedia article, production costs combined with a fragmented ad market are the reasons for the paywall. Digital ad revenue is not getting the job done.

“In the past we used to get the majority of our money from print advertising,” explained Chodan. “Now as people migrate towards other platforms, and they read us online instead of print, we have to find a way to finance what we do, which is gathering local news and information.”

Newspapers across North America, and recently Europe, are adding paywalls to their websites in an attempt to generate revenue from their digital content.

The Edmonton Journal receives at least 13 million page views per month compared to 500,000 readers per week with the print edition of the paper.

Despite negative feedback on social media (read some reaction below), Chodan says Postmedia found that only two per cent of online readers actually hit the 10 article limit, meaning this won’t affect most users.

The Edmonton Journal is part of the final phase of Postmedia’s move to paid online content.

Two years ago, the Victoria Times Colonist – now owned by Glacier Media Inc. – and the Montreal Gazette were the first Postmedia publications to move behind a paywall structure.

Towards the end of last summer, the Vancouver Sun, The Province, and the Ottawa Citizen started metered paywalls that resemble what Postmedia is implementing Tuesday.

“There are a number of Postmedia properties who have already done this,” Chodan said. “What they have said is that there is a slight decrease in page views, but there is also an increase in the revenue that is coming in from people who are paying $9.95 per month to access the content.”

Last October, Postmedia CEO, Paul Godfrey, hinted at plans to extend the paywall to all of publications, saying it was time newspapers all over the world started using pay meter systems.

Postmedia’s article also mentions that most publications decided to hand out their online content for free when the internet became popular in the 1990s, a decision that is now known as the industry’s “original sin.”

In addition to the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald, the National Post, Saskatoon Star Phoenix, Regina Leader Post and Windsor Star are starting their “digital pay meter” service Tuesday.

“We are telling people that it costs money to provide them with good quality news that is credible, that can be trusted, and that is gathered and generated locally,” Chodan said. “It isn’t as much, I don’t think, a solution to the fact that people are migrating to other platforms and print advertising revenue is down. It is part of a whole value proposition we have in our relationship with our audience.”

The Toronto Star remains the only major English-language publication without such a paywall – their service begins later this year.

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