The Baltimore Sun is putting up a paywall for its online content in two weeks, charging even print subscribers for stories and other features everyone has been getting for free for years.
As the Sun publisher writes to readers and an article in the business section notes, this move to charging people for content is not completely novel, as newspapers contemplate how to continue to stay afloat. UPDATE: Unlike it does for most articles, the Sun is not posting reader comments on these two pieces.
The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg have long charged for most content, and the New York Times and Boston Globe have begun doing so.
The Sun will be following the model of the Times and the Globe, requiring a subscription if you want to read more than a specific number of online stories per month. In the Sun’s case, the threshold is 15.
Within the past year, the Daily Record in Baltimore began putting its “exclusive” stories behind a wall available only to subscribers. Two other Maryland papers — the Cecil Whig and the Easton Star-Democrat — dropped their strict paywall for all content this summer, only to restore it in recent weeks. The Cumberland Times-News tried it for a while, but dropped it.
What’s an aggregator to do?
The new Sun paywall presents an interesting dilemma for MarylandReporter.com. Since we started this site almost two years ago, we’ve been doing the daily State Roundup from more than 50 websites including the Sun and the other papers we’ve mentioned, along with blogs, online news and other sources.
Unlike these for-profit companies, MarylandReporter.com was established as a nonprofit venture with money from foundations concerned about the loss of state government coverage. The roundup was designed to give people as much coverage of state government and politics as possible, combined with our own original reporting, which is free for anyone to pick up. The Daily Record, CityBizList, Salisbury News, Southern Maryland Online and the Cumberland Times-News are among those publications that use our articles, and there are likely others that we don’t even know about.
Our daily State Roundup shows that there is still a sizable amount of coverage of Maryland government. A lot of that is still done by the Sun. Despite the drastic cutback in staff and the complaints of former readers and current subscribers about thin coverage, Sun reporters still cover more about government than any other news organization in Maryland: Annie Linskey at the State House; Michael Dresser on transportation, Tim Wheeler on environment, Liz Bowie on education, Childs Walker on higher education, Jay Hancock and others in business, as well as reporters in all the Baltimore suburban counties, the city and Washington, D.C. The list is long, though not as long as it used to be.
So my first reaction is that MarylandReporter.com’s State Roundup can’t very well stop linking to the comprehensive coverage in the Sun, even if it causes readers to drive into the paywall. Maybe we should also subscribe to the other publications as well, and at least let readers know about coverage elsewhere, even if it is behind a wall.
That’s my preliminary thought about the Sun’s new subscription charge. I’d be interested to hear what our readers think about this development, and what we should do about it in the roundup.
You can just add a comment below, or send me an e-mail or comment on our Facebook site.
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