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Tribune Considering Paywall For Specialized Content?

By Chuck Sudo in News on May 29, 2012 8:55PM

Image Credit: Gabriel X. Michael

The questions regarding the Tribune adopting a paywall for content isn't will it happen—editor Gerould Kern has said a couple of times it's going to happen—but when and how.

Crain's Chicago Business, which is raising a paywall in June, hints at the how in a column today, reporting the Tribune may charge a subscription for specialized content similar to its Printers Row Sunday literary section. That section costs $99 for an annual subscription or $2.99 for single copies.

If this is the route the Tribune is taking, it would be counter to the paywall systems adopted by newspapers such as the Sun-Times, Daily Herald and Peoria Journal Star, which is the metered paywall system developed by Press Plus, the company founded by Brill's Content and CourtTV's Steven Brill that helps newspapers set up paid content.

Press Plus claims it can increase a newspaper's online revenues anywhere from five to 15 percent in 18 months if the paper limits its free content to 5-10 free page views a month. But Press plus also charges a paper $4,500 to establish a processing system and collects a 20 percent commission on new revenues. (So we know that Steve Brill is making money from a newspaper's paywall.)

The Trib's plan, if this is the route they're taking, would be similar to how national outlets like ESPN charge their insider content. media industry analyst Ken Doctor said that success hasn't translated over to a local level yet. As far as a metered paywall, Kern isn't talking. Sun-Times editor-in-Chief Jim Kirk told Crain's that they haven't aggressively marketed the paywall inherited by the previous owners and "the jury's still out" about whether it's been successful.