NAA list shows newspaper paywalls typically allow 11 free articles

NAAEbyline Blog

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)

  • Steve Myers

    Steve Myers was the managing editor of until August 2012, when he became the deputy managing editor and senior staff writer for The Lens, a nonprofit investigative news site in New Orleans.


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