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Summary:

The Washington Post, the last remaining paywall holdout among major newspapers, will begin charging for content this summer. The paywall, however, is set to be an extremely leaky one — meaning casual readers will have no trouble accessing the site.

The Washington Post will charge for access to its website beginning this summer. The move, which the company announced on Monday, confirms recent rumors and ends the Post’s role as the last major American newspaper besides USA Today holding out against paywalls.

The role of paywalls and the strategy for deploying them remains a hot topic for publishers, and will be the subject of a paidContent Live panel on April 17th, “How to monetize digital content: Advertising or Paywall.”

In the case of the Post, its paywall will be a leaky one that allows readers to view 20 free articles a month with no limit for its home page, section front pages or classifieds. Students and teachers will have unlimited access at school, while civil servants and military personnel will have unlimited access at work. Home delivery subscribers will get a free digital subscription. The paper will also not count visits that come by way of Google or social media against a reader’s monthly quota. The Post has not yet announced how much a digital subscription will cost.

This type of porous paywall, which aspire to nudge readers to subscribe without driving them away, is now commonplace. The New York Times, a pioneer of paywall strategies, made its paid website easily accessible at first but has since reduced the number of free articles and cut off popular workarounds.

As Forbes notes, the imposition of a paywall (however leaky) appears to be a victory for investor Warren Buffett, an advocate of paid content, over the Graham family, which controls the paper and has historically been opposed to charging for the website.

The Post is also experimenting with other models to raise revenue, including sponsored stories.

Clarification: this story was updated Tuesday morning to state that USA Today does not have a paywall.

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  1. “…ends the Post’s role as the last major American newspaper holding out against paywalls.”

    Except for USA TODAY. Yes, most of Gannett’s other newspapers have paywalls now (which function almost exactly like the Post’s…very leaky, on purpose), but USA TODAY still does not.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, rogersmj — you’re correct. I shouldn’t have overlooked that. I’ve updated the story accordingly

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  2. The ad-supported model has already peaked and has been delivering decreasing profit per page year after year for past three years. No matter how much more traffic sites get, they will not be able to make their businesses work given this trend and that is why hundreds of newspapers have already shifted.

    The trend is only going to continue, and consumers have already begun their flight to the “premium web” as the free content providers cannot keep up without those revenue streams. Premium content providers can afford to create better content and the cycle only drives a bigger divide between free and paid over time.

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  3. The *really* fascinating thing about leaky paywalls – who knew there were (apparently) enough brand-loyal obsessives, going through NYT-etc page-by-page-by-page-by-page, to make the picket fence paywalls work?

    Who are these people?

    I can understand the drive-by reader – guided by Google News or any of a bazillion other news curators – stopping in to the NYT a couple of times per month, viewing the Quantcast average 6 to 10 page views per month per unique.

    Got it – the backbone of the CPM-driven internet display advertising universe.

    One that nets news sites 50 cent CPMs (thank you, page-supply-stuffing *uckers at Facebook…with your well neigh infinite page view inventory…).

    The drive-by-reader – hated but still indispensable to the gasping MSM.

    But who are these hundreds of thousands of “people” (government workers with subscriptions paid for by their agency? DNC buy-bots propping up Ye Olde Propaganda Arm?) who believe that the NYT, etc. are such unique founts of secret wisdom (unknown to the millions of alternative *free* websites) that they are willing to pay a not inconsequential amount of money for the privilege of…

    …obsessively leafing through page after page after page of material from a single source.

    It really makes one wonder if segments of the Left aren’t so much interested in diversity, as in a daily ideological hand job.

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  4. There still NYT workarounds for Chrome and Foxfire and they work – the NYT depends on placing a blocker on the viewers computer and all is fair when it comes to taking stuff off your own computer

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