Chicago Sun-Times Papers Add Metered Paywalls — But Not For Roger Ebert


Chicago’s second-largest daily newspaper, the Sun-Times, and its 39 affiliated suburban newspapers will all start charging for online content. Starting tomorrow, users, including print subscribers, will have to pay to read more than 20 articles per month. The exception: movie critic Roger Ebert’s website, blog and reviews remain free.

What it costs: Home-delivery subscribers will pay an additional $1.99 every four weeks. Digital-only subscriptions are available for $6.99 per four weeks, or $77.87 per year.

How it works: Users can view 20 free articles per month across all Chicago Sun-Times sites before they are asked to pay. The paywall is operated by Press+.

What’s always free: Content that does not count against the 20 page views: Home page and section fronts; “sections whose content is mostly advertising…such as cars, home sales and death notices.”

Also, Roger Ebert: Ebert has criticized paywalls in the past. “I would hate for my reviews to go behind a paywall,” he wrote in a long post on his blog last year. “If I go behind a paywall…and a high school student in Mexico is doing some research, there are lots of other excellent critics on the web, and everybody knows it. I’m pretty sure I could get more than 35 subscribers, but a million?” Yesterday he told *Time* Out Chicago, “I’ve been informed by [publisher] John Barron that my site and blog will not be part of the online subscription plan.”

Papers affected: All 40 Sun-Media dailies and weeklies. The dailies are the Sun-Times, Beacon-News (Aurora), Courier-News (Elgin), Herald-News (Joliet), Lake County News-Sun, Naperville Sun, Post-Tribune (Merrillville, Ind.), Southtown Star (Tinley Park).

Circulation: The Sun-Times‘ daily circulation is 389,353.

The competition: Chicago’s largest daily newspaper, the Tribune, remains free online, although the Tribune-owned Baltimore Sun started charging for content in October.



This sounds like a good idea on their part. Digital ad revenue is still worth a lot less to newspapers than print ad revenue, so the logical strategy is to try and maintain the latter as long as possible while not completely closing off the former. The Chicago Sun-Tribune‘s strategy handles that pretty well, since the “20 articles a month” means that you can still get a taste of their online content without rendering getting a subscription entirely pointless.


What they (and others… hint: NYT) should do is auction off their articles to sites who want the content.  If they’re truly the de facto standard in quality news reporting, big money will be spent to attain their work.


I think they should have removed all of their content (short of summaries) from their web site and forced people to buy the print edition to get it. Online, they could have functionality that allowed people to interact around their content, and offer the ability to conduct transactions, i.e. buying, with group deals to give people discounts.

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