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Chicago Sun-Times Paywall: Paper To Charge Online Readers

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One of Chicago's two main daily newspapers will be introducing a "metered" paywall later this week.

The Chicago Sun-Times announced late Tuesday that it, along with all of its sister publications, will begin charging to view content across their websites. Beyond 20 free page views every 30 days, any online reader who is not a print subscriber to the paper will need to pay $6.99 every four weeks or $77.87 for a year's worth of access.

Subscribers to any of Sun-Times' 40 newspapers will qualify for a reduced charge of $1.99 every four weeks covering web content. Views of newspaper front pages and section front pages, classifieds and advertorials won't count toward the 20 free pages allotted to non-web subscribers.

Jeremy Halbreich, Sun-Times Media chairman said "the time is long overdue for us to begin charging for our content."

"It is certainly award-winning content and we need to find new ways to support it," Halbreich continued.

Mobile sites and news apps are, for now, exempt from the fees, according to the Daily Herald. The Herald also notes, apparently based on a memo Halbreich sent Sun-Times employees, that the move is "just one of many digital initiatives currently under way, including the very successful launch of our Chicago Sun-Times tablet and mobile apps, along with our e-Paper and e-Reader programs."

In September, the Herald became the first Chicago area daily to erect a digital paywall. The Herald said the change was "mandated by broad shifts in the traditional newspaper business model." The Herald's rate for digital-only subscribers -- $19.99 per month -- was higher than the Sun-Times' planned charge.

The announcement arrives one day after another round of layoffs at the paper, which Halbreich called the "final piece" of 18 months of staffing reductions, Crain's Chicago Business reports. Sun-Times Media has handed down hundreds of layoffs over the past two years.

Last year, renowned Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert addressed the concept of paywalls in a blog post:

I would hate for my reviews to go behind a paywall. I have around 10,000 of them here. For many years they existed only as a pile of yellowing tear-sheets. ... [H]ere they all are online, being read every day from virtually everyplace in earth. One in Yemen, one in Pago Pago, it adds up. Daniel from Pago Pago is a valued commenter on the blog. Think how great that makes me feel. If I go behind a paywall, however, 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.

Photo by edenpictures via Flickr.

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