Blog Post

Paywall Brigade: The Newspapers That Now Charge For Online Access

In the mid-90s, at least 45 U.S. newspapers charged for online access, though almost all of them later hopped over the fence to the free side. Now, the paywall brigade is rising again — albeit slowly. On the eve of this year’s American Society of News Editors conference, where the question of charging for digital content will be center stage, we’ve assembled a list of the local and metro papers in the U.S. that have paywalls. We found more than 20 that charge online readers up to $35 a month, in an attempt either to preserve their print circulation or to add a new stream of revenue. They range from major metros like Newsday to sub-20,000 circulation papers in small northeast towns that have charged online readers for years.

And this list is about to get longer. At least six other papers have announced they will put up some sort of online paywall in the coming months. How these papers do financially with their new paywalls will determine, in part, whether hundreds of other papers decide to take the same step. As a result, we’ll be updating this list periodically with new entrants and checking with these papers to see how they’re faring. We aimed for comprehensiveness, but our list is certainly missing papers that have paywalls and is missing some details too — so please help us out and send us the names of others that aren’t here, via the comments at the end of this story, and we’ll update. Click on the thumbnail below to see the full chart.


18 Responses to “Paywall Brigade: The Newspapers That Now Charge For Online Access”

  1. steveOHT

    See further analysis of this data and data from other paywalled daily newspaper websites: report

    Conclusion: Daily Newspaper Paywalls Generate $7.80/month and Add 3.5% to Total Circ

  2. Thanks for the compliment, but I think that young comment may be a bit relative.

    You are right that they local advertisers would see no value from the out of town subscribers, but with the ability to zone the online ads, it is possible to serve only national (or remnant) ads to them.

    I have suggested more of a blended approach: current news behind the wall, zoning of ads according to where someone is, and the opening up of content over 30 days old to free viewing. That combined with offering people the options to get our content on any device (phone, kindle, etc.) and a social media marketing strategy to increase pageviews.

    NYT proved years ago that paywall only will not maximize revenue.

    That’s my opinion, but you know what they say about those…

  3. billostendorf

    Add the Decatur Daily in Decatur, Ala., which put up a pay wall about three years ago. Their web provider, Creative Circle, was the first newspaper web CMS to offer paywalls in 2005.

  4. Chad, thanks for your response. You appear to be very much like much of the young talent I have had the fortune to work with over the years…. bright and gifted.

    One thing to be mindful of is the advertisers of which most are local, or, in-market. The out of market audience unfortunately has minimal if no advertiser value. When building a base of subscribers be mindful of the in-market/out-of-market split. The subscriber revenue is not comparable to advertiser revenue. If the subscribership is out of market it is difficult to build advertiser value unless the the subscriber list is LARGE, very large.

    Paid subscriber access can be a value when used to offset mailed subscriptions which are often delivered at a loss. IF I were a publisher I would ask that all out of market subscribers either subscribe online or pay for full delivery and mailing costs.

  5. Things got a little busy at work and it took a little time to get the figures I needed for this one.

    Currently, 30% of our subscribers are from out of state. Add another estimated 10% that are in state, but out of our standard distribution area.

    The latter number is estimated as I have just started a zip code level analysis of the data, and that seems to be where it’s heading. At least within a couple of %.

  6. @Chad, I was referring to your ‘subscribers’ who I imagine offered that information. I agree with IP Mapping guesstimation… that’s a different discussioin.

  7. I will look at our subs and will come up with a rough number for that when I can. I think that we will have a fair mix of where our subs come from, our area has a larger percentage of older folks, many leave for the winter, and the young leave in droves.

    I do keep an eye on our Analytics and have a rough estimate of where our traffic comes from, but with there there is always kind of a “gotcha”. That “gotcha” for us is that any local Verizon DSL subscribers have their pool of IP addresses out of Erie and that kind of skews things.

  8. @Chad G. I am curious, would you be willing to share what percent of your online only subscribers are in-market (within your home delivery area) and what percent are out-of-market.

  9. I work at the Oil City Derrick ( and we started a paywall in Nov. 09. We have a printed circ of 28,000 and 1193 online only subscribers.

    The paywall strategy they was taken here is not one that I would have done (i.e. all content, even AP behind the wall) but considering some of the numbers in the chart I don’t think that we are doing all that badly.

    Personally I would have done something more blended and added more features for the subscribers. Still working on that though

  10. Joseph Tartakoff

    Thanks for catching that. I changed the price of two of the papers — Mount Washington Valley and Martha’s Virginia Gazette.

    — Joe Tartakoff,

  11. I don’t have a problem with charging as long as the information itself is worth the cost of admission, and 90% of the time, it’s not. 90% of the time it’s just old media fools trying to save their backsides without having a product that’s worth paying for. The WSJ, on the other hand, has earned the right to charge. They provide a lot of free high-quality content which motivates you to pay for the rest. Other newspapers would do well to provide similarly compelling content.