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Summary:

For about the cost of “a trip to Starbucks,” six Lee Enterprises (NYSE: LEE) newspapers in Montana and Wyoming are adopting a metered pay mo…

Billings Gazette

For about the cost of “a trip to Starbucks,” six Lee Enterprises (NYSE: LEE) newspapers in Montana and Wyoming are adopting a metered pay model on their websites. Starting today, even print subscribers will have to pay a small charge to read above a certain number of articles online — but they do get a discount.

The participating Lee newspapers are the Missoulian, Ravalli Republic, Billings Gazette, Helena Independent Record, Montana Standard and Casper Star Tribune. The paywalls are run by RR Donnelly’s Press+ service. Press+ comes from Journalism Online, the company founded by Steve Brill, Gordon Crovitz and Leo Hindery, Jr. was acquired by Donnelly earlier this year.

The metered pricing, the number of page views a user gets before being asked to purchase a digital subscription, and the content that counts as free page views varies by site. “Each enterprise was able to select what was on which side,” Kyle Rickhoff, digital media editor at the Billings Gazette, told paidContent. Content accessed via mobile apps is not metered for any of the papers, he said. For all of the sites, print subscribers who hit the limit must also purchase digital subscriptions, though they receive a discount. Here are the new metered models for each paper, as outlined in editorials on the papers’ websites today:

»  Billings Gazette: After 20 page views/month. Print subscribers: $1.95/month, $19.50/year. Non-subscribers: $6.95/month, $69.50/year. (A daily print subscription with home delivery is $248.35/year.)
Always free: “home page, photo galleries, videos, community calendar, classifieds, all advertisements, Get it! Marketplace, Today’s Deal, search results, index pages and Magic City Magazine.” “Charging to view our online content recognizes the investment we’re making to bring news and advertising to readers in the format they prefer–be it on newsprint, your home computer, your mobile phone or other portable devices,” write Gazette publisher Mike Gulledge and editor Steve Prosinki.
Print circulation: 38,364 (weekday), 45,537 (Sunday).*

»  Casper Star Tribune: After 15 page views/month. Print subscribers: $2.95/month, $29.50/year. Non-subscribers: $6.95/month, $69.50/year. (A daily print subscription with home delivery is $234/year.)
Always free: Homepage, classifieds, obituaries, ad content.
Print circulation: 12,772 (weekday); 27,968 (Sunday). Digital circulation: Print circulation: 22,821 (weekday); 24,290 (Sunday).

»  Missoulian: After 20 page views/month. Print subscribers: $2/month or $20/year. Non-subscribers: $5/month, $50/year. (A daily print subscription with home delivery is $208/year.)
Always free: “Homepage or section fronts, all classified and retail advertising, videos and slideshows, blogs and contests.” “The metered model is an important step, one that recognizes the value of our news coverage and our investment in bringing you that coverage,” writes editor Sherry Devlin. “No other news outlet in western Montana employs such a large, experienced, diverse team of professional journalists–reporters, photographers and editors.”
Print circulation: 25,672 (weekday), 27,868 (Sunday).

»  Helena Independent Record: After 15 page views/month. Print subscribers: $1.99/month, $19.99/year. Non-subscribers: $4.99/month, $49.99/year. (A daily print subscription with home delivery is $175/year.)
Always free: “The front page, classifieds, all advertisements and advertising promotions (such as Today’s Deal), special sections, auctions, community calendar or customer service pages.”
Metered: “Local, state, national and world news pages; local and regional sports; news accessed by Facebook and Twitter; opinion pages; obituaries; entertainment (except AP wire); health, outdoors, weddings, anniversaries; births, lottery; weather; archives; comments; photo galleries and videos.”
Print circulation: 13,014 (weekday); 13,395 (Sunday).

»  Montana Standard: After 15 page views/month. Print subscribers: $1.99/month, $19.99/year. Non-subscribers: $4.99/month, $49.99/year. (A daily print subscription with home delivery is $195/year.) The Montana Standard does not appear to have run an editorial outlining the new changes.
Print circulation: 13,014 (weekday); 13,395 (Sunday).

»  Ravalli Republic: After 20 page views/month. Print subscribers: $1/month, $10/year. Non-subscribers: $3/month, $25/year. (A weekday print subscription with home delivery is $98.32/year. The paper is not published on the weekends.)
Always free: Homepage, section fronts, classified and retail advertising, videos and slideshows, blogs and contests.
Print circulation: 4,873 (weekday).

In his editorial outlining the changes, Casper Star-Tribune editor Chad Baldwin wrote:

While access to trib.com for our most active users won’t be free, it’ll still be a pretty darned good deal: The monthly cost for print subscribers will equal the average cost of a trip to Starbucks (NSDQ: SBUX). For those who aren’t print subscribers, it’ll cost the same as two trips to Starbucks.

It’s also worth pointing out that many newspapers have been charging for online access for some time. Others, like the Star-Tribune, are just joining the club. Some, including several Wyoming newspapers, charge to access any news content, with no allowance for any free website visits such as our 15-view threshold.

And I can say with certainty that no Wyoming news site has anything close to the immediacy, breadth and depth of the online report you’ll find at trib.com. We by far have more journalists working to cover Natrona County and Wyoming than any other media organization. Some online “aggregators” populate their sites with headlines and links from the Star-Tribune and trib.com, but the news originates with our hard-working staff of reporters, editors, designers, photographers and videographers.

I’m confident you’ll find the $2.95 or $6.95 per month well worth the investment.

* Print circulation figures: Audit Bureau of Circulations. Digital circulation: N/A.

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  1. Mike Donatello Tuesday, August 2, 2011

    Wow! What a wonderful way to alienate your most devoted readers!

    I would ask whether this move was driven by any sort of well-run consumer research, but I’m afraid that viewers of my comment might miss the rhetorical intent.  Maybe it was motivated by a desire to cut down site traffic and save on hosting fees?  Who knows — just another puzzling decision in the wacky world of publishers cutting their own throats.

  2. Charles Ulysses Feney Wednesday, August 3, 2011

    The Gazette wants a new online rate
    As if they’re the only news in the State
    But it’s a digital fish wrapper
    That’s of no use in the crapper
    Where articles suck, but the comments are great!

    Charles Ulysses Feney

  3. Lee Enterprises, you suck.  Have a nice bankruptcy

  4. Easy to Replace Friday, September 2, 2011

    I’ve used the Missoulian, Butte Standard and Helena
    IR online for the last 10 years. I did it to read local news that I do care
    about, but those websites were typed in out of habit.  It may take a few days or even a week of new
    muscle memory but it is not hard for me to change over to KPAX.com, KECI.com,
    etc… to find the same news.  I don’t
    blame a company for trying to save itself but I believe this will only drive
    readers into the waiting arms of competitors, who are no doubt already finding
    ways to capitalize on this mistake.

    In our small house this is how it works:  Grandparents, print and only print, won’t use
    a computer.  My parents use what we have
    put in the favorites, now replaced with the above mentioned or other free local
    news sites.  Wife and I, everything from
    Reuters to facebook to blogs to Google search results, no one source for any
    news local or national.  And the kids
    oldest being 12, facebook and twitter only. 
    So in our small household they have lost 50% of their readers. 

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