During my absence last month, a professor of journalism e-mailed me to review and correct his list of U.S. newspaper websites that charge for access. I do have a master list of daily newspapers throughout the world that charge for access, but I provide that information only to my consulting clients.
Nevertheless, here is a quick list of the U.S. daily newspaper sites. They fall into three categories:
U.S. Newspaper Websites That Charge All Their Users for Access
Those newspapers’ websites charge both their print subscribers and print non-subscribers for access. The median rates charged non-subscribers are US$6.00 per month, $18.00 per quarter, $36.00 semi-annually, and $72 per year. The median rates charged print subscribers are $9.98 per month, $13.50 per quarter, $27 seminannually, and $54 per year.
I gives medians rather than averages for these three newspapers because of the huge relative size of the WSJ. For example, the average weekday circulation of these newspapers is 535,975 but the median circulation is only 8,864.
The reason why the median rate charged print subscribers each month is more than that charged non-subscribers is simply a mathematical artifact arising from the Post-Register not offering a monthly rate to its print subscribers, who must instead pay quarterly.
U.S. Newspaper Websites That Charge Only Non-Print Subscribers for Access
The average weekday circulation of those 13 newspapers is 69,234, the median is 42,406. The average rates charged for site access were $6.43 per week, $6.94 per month, $23.95 per quarter, $63.35 semi-annually, and $83.91 per year.
The medians were $4.50 per week. $6.75 per month, $18 per quarter, $63.35 semi-annually, and $64.50 per year. Two newspaper also charge daily rates of $0.60 and $2.95 respectively.
Those 13 newspapers require that non-subscribers pay to read any local stories. However, two other newspapers offer some of their local stories each day for free but charge non-print subscribers to read any other local stories:
U.S. Newspaper Websites That Charge Non-Print Subscribers for Complete Access
The average circulation of these two newspapers is 29,232. Both offer rates of $30 semi-annually and $50 annually. Lewiston also offers a $7 monthly rate.
Overall, the average weekday circulation among these 19 newspapers is 163,284 but mainly due to inclusion of the WSJ. The median circulation is only 36,163. The average rates the 19 charge non-print subscribers are $1.78 per day, $643 per week, $7.60 per month, $21.57 per quarter, $45.74 semi-annually, and $75.36 per year. The median rates were $1.78 per day, $4.50 per week, $6.75 per month, $18 per quarter, $36 semi-annually, and $64.50 per year.
How successful have these daily newspapers been at charging for content? I haven’t examined the finances of each one. However, Borrell Associates examined 15 of the 19 during 2001 and found that none had been able to generate paying online subscribers equal to more than 2.5 percent of their print circulation numbers.
The other 1,437 daily newspapers in the U.S. continue to offer their content for free. I think they have good reasons.