Chicago Tribune gives readers Economist, Forbes under new paywall plan

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The Chicago Tribune will at last begin charging for its online content through an innovative scheme that will also give readers access to a premium package of third party content, the newspaper has told paidContent. Under the plan, readers will see selections from the Economist and Forbes magazines included in a new paid section, which will also include Tribune content that has been newly designated as premium.

According to Digital VP Bill Adee, the Tribune will not block readers from content at first but will instead ask them to register. This registration period — which will be introduced in the next few days — is intended to let readers know that a payment plan is on the way, and will also serve to familiarize them with a site redesign the Tribune is introducing at the same time. The paper says it plans to begin introducing article limits for non-subscribers later this year.

The Economist and Forbes content is being supplied via NewsCred, a news platform that relies on technology to rapidly curate and license content from over 800 partners. Adee says the Tribune will be able to get the other publishers’ content for rates equivalent to a newswire service and that the paper is in the process of adding another business news partner in coming weeks (it could be Bloomberg — a NewsCred client — but that is just a guess).

“If you ask people to pay more than you asked before, they’ll expect more from you,” explained Adee, adding that the Tribune also plans to make several dozen e-books available to online subscribers. The paper’s own account of the changes is here.

The Chicago Tribune is among the last major papers in the country to introduce a paywall which has given it times learn from others’ efforts. These include the “metered” strategy (allowing casual readers to see a certain number of articles for free) which is now nearly universal and a decision to make content shared via social media available to everyone. The Tribune is also following the LA Times‘ effort to make¬†online subscribers feel that they are buying a membership to more than just the paper; the latter does so by offering tickets and event discounts to its subscribers.

The Tribune‘s decision to include content from the Economist and Forbes is by far the most intriguing part of its strategy. It means the paper will have to earn more digital revenue simply to pay for the outside content. But the approach stands to pay off by offering Tribune readers a richer world of reading behind the paywall without having to put too much of its content out of sight (Adee says the competitive landscape means coverage of the Cubs and other Chicago sports will remain available to everyone).

For Forbes and the Economist, the plan appears to make perfect sense. While there is a small risk of¬†cannibalizing existing readers, this will be offset by the fact that not all of their content will be available and by the opportunity to expose their brand to hundreds of thousands of new readers. There is also a paycheck for the third party publishers. NewsCred CEO Shafqat Islam would not disclose specific revenue figures and only revealed, “we’re able to give our providers a significant monthly payment.”

(For more on NewsCred, see “Technology, middlemen and the future of news“)

(Image by Steven Broer via Shutterstock)

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