Thought you were just going to suckle from the teat of the Washington Post like the unapologetic freeloader you are? We all did. But today, the Washington Post says, “be gone, moochers!” The paper announced Monday that starting this summer, frequent users will have to pay a fee.
The first 20 articles will be free, but after that, users will have to start paying a yet-to-be-determined price. Home delivery subscribers will get unlimited access to the Post’s digital articles, as will students, teachers, school administrators, government employees, and military personnel (while in their schools and workplaces).
“News consumers are savvy; they understand the high cost of a top-quality news gathering operation and the importance of maintaining the kind of in-depth reporting for which The Post is known,” said Katharine Weymouth, publisher of The Post, in a statement. “Our digital package is a valuable one, and we are going to ask our readers to pay for it and help support our news gathering as they have done for many years with the print edition.”
The Post’s paywall is fairly liberal compared to more stringent paywalls erected by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. The Times set up its paywall in 2011, giving users access to 20 free articles a month before charging a fee. The paper later ratcheted its freebies back in 2012, allowing users access to only 10 free articles a month.
Two years later, the Times is still struggling with falling profits. Earnings per share fell to $0.32 a share in Q4 2012, compared to $0.39 in the fourth quarter of 2011. Operating profit fell precipitously to $44 million in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared to $90.8 million in Q4 2011.
But the company maintains that the paywall is helping matters. Paid subscriptions rose 13% between Q3 and Q4 to 668,000.
In March 2012, the Times had 454,000 paid subscribers.
The Washington Post held out longer than the other large papers. The Wall Street Journal became one of the first in 2009, and it ended up increasing circulation at a time when many other papers were floundering. But then again, it’s one of the easier paywalls to get around. You can access WSJ’s content by simply googling the title of the article you want to read.
But the Washington Post says that one of the key differences between its business and that of the Times and WSJ is the fact that the Post draws large amounts of its advertising from local merchants (the company doesn’t say exactly how much). But 90% of its online audience is outside the Washington area.
Revenue generated by the Post website and Slate increased 5% to $110.6 million in 2012, up from $105.8 million in 2011. Most of that was from online display advertising, the revenues of which increased 6% in 2012.
Image source: washingtonpost.com