Rhode Island Paper, Circ 12,000, Will Charge For Online Content–In A Big Way

imageMost newspapers are tiptoeing into the world of charging for content — if they’re going there at all. But not the Newport Daily News . The paper is about to start charging readers more than twice as much for the electronic edition as for the print edition in an attempt to drive readers to the print version. It plans to charge $345 a year for online access, compared to $145 a year for home delivery (Visitors can also pay $5 to get the paper online for a day).

The plan just might work — at least in the short-term — for The Newport Daily News. Right now, the paper’s readers don’t have many other online options to get local news, according to the Nieman Journalism Lab. The paper is also not at risk of losing a free online audience that’s generating much ad revenue. The site averages only about 20,000 uniques a month, according to Compete.com, and the paper has never heavily promoted its website as a source of news. But it’s easy to imagine that a local news blog will now try to move in to fill the void that The Newport Daily News will be leaving online. Indeed, commenters to the Nieman Journalism Lab piece note the existence of three hyperlocal sites in the region that will certainly have an impetus to try to beef up their coverage.

For now, visitors can still access The Newport Daily News‘ content for free online during a limited trial period. Publisher Albert Sherman tells Nieman Journalism Lab in a video interview that so far, results look promising: “Some of the respondents to the test period on the internet said why would they pay for it on the internet when they can go buy the printed paper. That’s perfect. That’s what we want.” So why bother maintaining a website at all? Sherman says that some people who live outside of Newport might be willing to pay to keep up with goings on there.

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