Following in the steps of The New York Times and other newspapers around the country, The Baltimore Sun announced in a letter from publisher Tim Ryan to readers on Sunday, that it would begin charging for access to The Sun's content on-line on October 10th.
In a memo to Sun employees (republished by media-watcher Jim Romenesko on the Poynter website), Ryan spells out the parameters of digital subscriptions. Readers will be able to see up to 15 pages on The Sun website, including blog posts and links from social media, for free. After that, they will be asked to pay $2.99 per week for unlimited digital access, or $49.99 for 26 weeks. Paying print subscribers will have to pay an additional 75 cents per week for digital access, or $29.99 per year. As an introductory special, readers will be able to buy digital access for the first 4 weeks for 99 cents.
As I discussed when the Times introduced its paywall, the move is a bold step for newspapers, which have been been struggling to survive in the Internet era. And while the Times reports some initial success with its paywall, only time will tell if Sun readers value their paper as much as Times readers—who certainly get a lot more content with their subscriptions.
One crucial mistake, I think, is requiring print subscribers to pay something extra for digital access. Times print subscribers get digital access for free (I know because I am one). This encourages people to subscribe to the print edition—"if I'm going to have to pay, I might as well get the print edition too." By making print subscribers pay for digital access, you're making them pay twice for, in large part, the same content. This actually discourages people from subscribing to the print edition‚ their core business (I know because I'm a Sun subscriber too). At this point, I get most of my Sun content on-line, and occasionally from the physical paper. If you're going to make me pay twice, I'm going to drop one, and it's going to be the more expensive, out-moded one, for sure. (Something I'm likely to do in the coming days). I'm legitimately flummoxed by this move. If anyone can explain why they would go against the Times' model and do this, please leave a note in the comments...