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Postmedia Paywall: National Post, Ottawa Citizen, Vancouver Province, Vancouver Sun Enact ‘Metered' Pay System

Four Major Canadian Papers Disappear Behind Paywall
Flickr: hoder

Online newspaper readers will soon be seeing registration screens when they visit the websites of several major Canadian newspapers.

Postmedia News properties the Ottawa Citizen, Vancouver Province and Vancouver Sun are about to launch the first paywalls for major news sites in Canada, joining a growing number of newspapers worldwide seeking to recoup lost advertising revenue by directly charging readers.

The National Post will also institute a paywall but, at least initially, it will only apply to international visitors. The paywalls will go up late Tuesday, the Globe and Mail reported.

Though Postmedia’s paywalls are the first to go up among Canada’s major papers, the Globe and Mail announced in April it would also begin charging online readers later.

"I think there is a broader general move towards charging for content," Globe publisher Philip Crawley said at the time.

Crawley said the Globe had already planned to put its business section behind a paywall this fall, but, after further research, decided to apply the paywall to the entire paper. Details of the Globe’s paywall were still being worked out as of the latest reports.

Vancouver Sun editor-in-chief Harold Munro announced the paywall on his paper's website, telling readers that "rising economic pressures and the rising cost of gathering information" have made the move necessary.

"This new 'metered' system will help generate revenue to invest in the insightful, award-winning print and digital journalism expected from the biggest and best news team in Western Canada," he wrote. "We remain committed to investigative reporting and working to ensure transparency from governments and public agencies."

The new pay system will see print subscribers to the newspapers get free access to website and mobile content. Those who only want to read the papers online will be charged an initial fee of 99 cents per month. Over time, the cost will rise to $7.95 per month for the Vancouver papers, or $79.50 per year, and $9.95 per month for the Ottawa Citizen, or $99.50 per year, the Globe reported.

The Canadian papers’ move mirrors that of many other newspapers around the world, who have struggled with declining print revenue and advertising as readers shifted from paper to digital.

In recent years, the Times of London and the New York Times both went behind paywalls, moves that at the time were considered risky within the industry but appear to have paid off.

The New York Times has since built up a paid readership of 535,000, and projections suggest the paper will soon have more online subscribers than print (the N.Y. Times charges $220 for annual access).

The Times of London, however, has about 100,000 paid readers and suffered a dramatic readership decline in the aftermath of the paywall. Some observers argue the U.K. Times’ paywall is too rigid, alienating readers by forcing them to register and pay for any content at all, while the New York Times’ monthly quota of free stories keeps people coming back to the website.

The Postmedia paywall will resemble the New York Times model more closely than the U.K. Times model, allowing a monthly quota of 15 free stories to readers.

-- With files from Jesse Ferreras and The Canadian Press

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