It's no surprise that the traditional newspaper model is a failing model - at least in major cities. One of the ways to offset the decline in revenue is to launch a paywall. The L.A. Times is the latest newspaper to launch such a program.
On Friday, the L.A. Times announced the launch of a new membership program for their Web site - that's business speak for a paywall. It's not as bad as you might think, however, as it leaves print subscribers alone and it still has a free model.
If you are already a subscriber to the print edition of the L.A. Times, you will still be able to access the Web site free of charge. You are also getting a new lifestyle section in the Saturday edition of the paper.
For those who just read their content online, you will have to pay attention because their paywall is kind of confusing. First things first, there will still be a free component to the online edition of the paper. You will be able to read 15 stories for free over a 30-day period. So if you read only one story every two days, you should be good.
For those who are more realistic, you will want to subscribe to access the news content behind the new paywall. How much will you be paying to get access to this news? Well, once the paywall launches on March 5, readers will be asked to pay 99 cents for four weeks of access. Once those four weeks are up, readers will be asked to pay $1.99 a week for access that includes the Sunday newspaper. For those who just want the digital edition, they will have to pay $3.99 a week.
Funny enough, the L.A. Times recognizes that programs like this are known as "paywalls," but wants everybody to know it's a "membership program." What's the difference? This "membership program" will include access to retail discounts, deals and giveaways. I'll give them that, but it's still a paywall that just offers digital inserts that you would usually find in a print newspaper.
If you don't want to pay this new fee, the newspaper does say that they will not be charging those who access the site through smartphones or tablets. They will, however, soon be implementing a payment method for those users. My guess is something similar to the New York Times iPad app.
You better get used to this being the norm now, instead of the exception. While newspapers are still doing pretty well in small towns with limited Internet access, the same can not be said of the bigger cities where technology and the Internet have changed everything. The L.A. Times has found a good subscription model and the addition of the Sunday paper to the $1.99 model is a good move.