NAA list shows newspaper paywalls typically allow 11 free articles

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Research conducted by the Newspaper Association of America shows that some news organizations, like Gannett, vary their paywall thresholds at different papers, while others, like Digital First, stick with the same number across them all.

NAA’s spreadsheet (subscriber only) details the paywall strategy, launch date and owner for 156 papers. The metered approach is by far more popular — employed by 84 percent of the papers — than a “hard” paywall, Ebyline notes.

This chart from Ebyline’s Susan Johnston shows the pace at which paywalls were adopted, with a big spike in the third quarter of 2011.

The paywalls at Digital First newspapers kick in after five stories per month, according to the NAA list. So does McClatchy’s paywall at The Modesto Bee. Paywalls are on the way across the other McClatchy sites later this year.

Five stories is the low end of the spectrum, other than a few places that set the meter at three stories. The high end is Morris Communications’ 25-story threshold. Most papers don’t allow more than 20 stories to non-subscribers. The average number of free stories per month, according to Ebyline, is 11.2.

Gannett is also on the low side, but NAA’s list shows several different approaches. Thirteen papers have the threshold set at 5, another 12 have it set at 10, three have it at 15, and seven have it set at 20. (That adds up to 35; Gannett had paywalls in place at 49 papers as of late June, according to News & Tech.) Berkshire Hathaway and Dow Jones Local Media also have varied their approach greatly, though with far fewer papers.

Here are some of the major players’ paywall approaches. In the “paywall threshold” column.

Owner Paywall threshold
Berkshire Hathaway (includes former Media General sites) 5 (at one paper), 8 (at one paper), 10 (at three papers), 15 (at one paper)
Community Newspaper Holdings 10
Digital First Media 5
Dow Jones Local Media 3 (at one paper), 10 (at one paper), 20 (at one paper)
GateHouse 15 (at 13 papers), 20 (at five papers)
Halifax 10
Lee Enterprises 15 (at four papers), 20 (at three papers)
McClatchy 5
Morris 25
Scripps 10
Tribune Co. 10 (at one paper), 15 (at four papers)

Earlier: Most major newspaper groups are now experimenting with paywallsPaywalls now affect one-third of daily newspaper readersNew York Times’ circulation revenue lags growth in digital subscriptions (Poynter)

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  • Robin Lee

    Death of the free web. Oh well, there’s always TV. 

    There is a lot more at stake here than newspapers forcing people to pay for what they previously touted as free, free, free to get more eyes on their advertising. The web was free, and for the most part, it still is despite the efforts of certain companies to make it a space for the wealthy and cut the rest of us out of it.

    Hey, how about a second web – one that everyone pays to use and the companies and paid membership organizations with sites on it take a cut. And leave the web we all know and love as a free entity. That way those wealthy enough to afford it can raise prices on each other to their heart’s content without aggravating the rest of us! 

    So their ad strategy didn’t work. They bumbled around with a bad business model for  years while other companies did it right.  Now, just like government, they turn to the general population to get their money. OK it’s not a tax, so you do have a choice. But many of us will decide that whether we want to or not, we have to make the hard choice and give up the online news except for the free sites.Just like we cut down on our cable TV packages, gave up our landline phones, cut back on our electricity use, went with slower internet speeds. Do we not “deserve” to read the news that was pushed hard by the papers are FREE? Apparently not. 

    We the people who use the web need to keep it free by any means we can. If that includes turning our back on the local newspaper, well, ok, that’s what we can do.

  • Steve Myers

    That’s true; this only applies to the single paywall at The Modesto Bee. I said that in the text of the post and thought readers would understand that when they looked at the table.

    Steve Myers

  • Dena Levitz

    To be clear, this was not a formal study requiring a hefty price tag, as implied. I track paid content activity at NAA, and the data came from a spreadsheet that I maintain. The spreadsheet, I’m sure, doesn’t list off every single publication that’s every tried paid content. But, as much as one person’s able, I note the hows around a wide cross section of papers’ strategies — what their meter threshold is, whether print subscribers get free access or are charged, that sort of data. Happy to discuss further.

  • Jared Thompson

    Dennis, I didn’t expect to read you HERE among us geeks. Thank you for bringing your wit  to an otherwise dull NAA study. Lucky for me the L.A. Times hasn’t metered their iPad app…yet.

  • Christian A. Hendricks

    Wow. Dennis Romero who has been silent and ineffectual for so many years regarding about life in general suddenly springs  to life and publishes a juvenile critique of NAA’s work on paywalls. Let’s see, his commentary and thoughts ditto a lot of other know-it-alls… Brilliant! How much time did he spend thinking he is “sharp”?

  • Dennis Romero

    Wow. The NAA, which has been silent and ineffectual for so many years regarding the digital revolution, suddenly springs to life and publishes a shocking study that newspapers with paywalls on average allow a reader to see 11 free articles before asking readers to pay up. Let’s see, the New York Times has a 10-article limit, ditto for the L.A. Times … Brilliant! How much did they spend on this “study.”