During a speech delivered to the National Conference of Editorial Writers on Thursday September 24th, 2009, Dean Singleton, the CEO of MediaNews Group, disclosed that all media outlets in his company will begin charging for at least some of their online content beginning sometime in 2010. Singleton had first broached this possibility back in May 2009. A complete list of all 54 of MediaNews groups outlets is available HERE; the Utah list includes the Salt Lake Tribune and the Park City Park-Record. Later on September 25th, the Salt Lake Tribune published this story on this development.
Singleton cited the fact that all news organizations are feeling economic pressures. He said that since 2006, revenues for metro dailies nationally are down 40 percent, and that 30 of the 50 biggest papers are losing money. But Singleton also said that revenue isn't the only issue, explaining that when you give it away for free, it has no value. When you begin charging for it, it establishes value.
The full story has been published by KSL Channel 5. You can toggle between the Main Story Video and a 16-minute interview with Dean Singleton. I strongly recommend you watch the Singleton interview; it is surprisingly interesting. While the specifics have yet to evolve, Singleton did discuss the prospective impact on the Salt Lake Tribune.
Applicability: Singleton clearly states that he plans to implement the changes throughout his company. This means all their media outlets will be required to put at least some content behind a "pay wall". But the amount and type of content to be paid will be determined by each individual media outlet, depending upon local market conditions.
Print Edition Subscribers: Subscribers to the print edition of the Salt Lake Tribune will get all online content for free. Thus the strategy is obviously intended to halt and reverse the continuing decline in print subscriptions.
Non-Subscribers to the Print Edition: Essentially, the basics will remain free, but in-depth stories will cost. For example, breaking news reports, blogs, and game scores with basic game stories will remain free. What will cost will be in-depth reports behind the stories. Subscriptions to the online edition for non-subscribers to the print edition will undoubtedly be made available, but there also may be special stories requiring an additional charge. For example, Singleton may be thinking about a $9.95 charge for specialized coverage of the Utah Jazz (such a charge will still not apply to print subscribers).
Public Reaction: Initial public reaction, in the form of 27 comments posted to the KSL story as of this post, is highly unfavorable. Several individuals predict the new model will fail. Others say they will simply go to the Deseret News and other free sources for their information. And that's an important point; the Deseret News has no plans to implement a pay wall at this time, so they're likely to benefit.
The Ogden Standard-Examiner has used a split system for quite a while now, so you can look at their website to see what the Tribune might look like after they make the change.