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When Hurricane Irene hit the East Coast last week, several newspapers took down their paywalls for all weather-related coverage. But when does a big weather alert turn from emergency news into an ongoing story? With its new metered paywall, Northern Texas’s Times Record News, which is published by Scripps, is making that distinction. It’s the latest example of how local papers are getting savvier about charging for online content.
The Times Record News‘s metered paywall is operated by Press+. Starting today, daily print subscribers will receive online access for free, but “limited delivery” print subscribers–who receive the paper on Sundays or weekends only–will be charged $6.45 per month for online access. Non-print subscribers will be charged $9.95 per month.Nonsubscribers can read ten free articles each month before the paywall kicks in. Always-free content is quite limited: emergency alerts, sports scores (for the first three days), obituaries (for the first three days) and funeral notices. And the paper differentiates between “emergency alerts” and developing stories:
A breaking news alert – such as a tornado warning or other threats to the region or a major developing news story – will always run free as a public service, but as the story is developed, it shifts to paid content.
“When there’s something we need everybody to see, such as a snowstorm list of school closings, we can take those parameters off the story and allow it to run for free,” said TRN editor Deanna Watson. “You can still turn to us for breaking news.”
The Times Record News website now generates two million hits a month; the paper’s daily print circulation is 25,000. “The rate at which the website is being used by readers warrants them having a little skin in the game,” Record News publisher Dwayne Bivona said.