Charging for online content may not be as poor a strategy as it's often depicted.
A statement on Kansas' Chanute Tribune's Web site reads, "A startling number of readers who insist the online version has so little value they wouldn't dream of paying $4 a month for it nevertheless are angry they no longer have access."
That's a pretty powerful retort to a certain columnist who is still feeling defeated about shelling out $5.95 for a one-day pass to Editor & Publisher's online archives. A few sites have been charging for daily content for a while-the Wall Street Journal, Inside.com and Salon.com are probably the best known. Conventional wisdom says that these sites attract thousands of subscribers because they offer specialized content to a fiercely loyal group of users.
With online ad sales plumetting and users acclimating to e-commerce, some general news sites are now trying a similar model.
Pioneers include the Chanute Tribune and Idaho's Lewiston Morning Tribune, which began charging for their stories in 1999. In April, Minnesota's Rochester Post-Bulletin restricted online access to print-edition customers (see Bylines, May). Earlier that month Media General, owner of 25 dailies, announced that it would institute a fee system at some of its newspaper sites by...