Published on Tuesday, 26 June 2012 18:20
Chicago Tribune announced late today that it will be redesigning its website once again, with the main purpose of having its regular website visitors prepare for the website's upcoming metered paywall.
Chicago Tribune media reporter Robert Channick broke the story on the Tribune's website this afternoon
, reporting on his employing company's plans.
Starting this week, the Chicago Tribune will require registration from web visitors who wish to see some content on the website. Among the pages of the website that will now require registration are columns from Tribune columnists, arts & culture reviews, and special reports, such as in-depth/investigative pieces. The website will also soon offer "premium content" from outside news sources, including The Economist and Forbes. That premium content will also require registration.
Basic Chicago Tribune news articles and content will remain open & free for now, with no registration required.
Tribune Company management is being completely honest about the reasons behind the new registration process. It is being done to test the waters toward erecting a paywall. As of now, Tribune officials are not yet saying when the paywall will take effect or any details about the plan, such as price and what content will still be shown freely. Maggie Wartik, speaking on behalf of the Chicago Tribune said today: "We'll be testing content and our readers' reactions to the expanded, relaunched site, and we're going to sort through all of that before we determine how much to charge."
Bill Adee, Chicago Tribune Vice President for Digital Development and Operations, sent out an internal memo to staffers today, letting them know of the immediate plans. In that emailed memo, Adee said: "We know there has been a lot of buzz in the media lately about our plans for launching a pay model around our content. We expect to eventually charge for some level of premium content and are looking at several options, but we want user feedback to help shape our next steps."
The Chicago Tribune's eventual erecting of a subscription paywall has been expected for months. At the start of March, Chicago Tribune sister-publication, the Los Angeles Times placed its website behind a metered paywall
. That plan allows visitors to view 15 website pages per month for free, but after that, one must be an online subscriber to view any more, paying $3.99 per week. Many suspect the Chicago Tribune's plan may be similar, but more complicated, with different levels of pricing, allowing different levels of access and features.
Once the paywall plan takes effect, the Chicago Tribune will join a rapidly growing list of other newspapers nationwide which charge for online access, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Morning News, the Boston Globe, the Baltimore Sun, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Of course, most local Chicagoland newspapers already charge for online access, as well. The suburban Daily Herald was the first Chicagoland newspaper to install a paywall for its website, charging $19.99 per month -- a plan that began in September 2011. The Chicago-Sun Times became the first of the two major downtown newspapers to install a paywall for its website. In December 2011
, the Sun-Times began charging $6.99 per month for full access beyond 20 free page views on its website, as well as on its many suburban newspaper websites. Crain's Chicago Business began its website paywall earlier this month
The Chicago Tribune is also planning on releasing a new mobile-friendly version of its website for smart phone & tablet users later this year.