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Washington Post to Start Charging for Digital Access

The Washington Post's home page.
Source: Washingtonpost.com
The Washington Post's home page.

The Washington Post Co. plans to start charging for some digital content starting this summer, becoming one of the last major U.S. newspapers to reach into readers' wallets for new online revenue.

Online readers of the Post will be required to pay a subscription fee after accessing 20 free articles per month. Subscribes to the print edition of the newspaper will have free access to all of the Post's digital content.

The Post, which made the announcement on Monday, did not release any additional details on pricing.

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The plan to start charging readers for digital access comes as newspapers face serious challenges because advertisers — once a main source of revenue — are choosing to put their dollars into other media.

Print advertising for the newspaper industry fell a sixth consecutive year in 2012, dropping 7.3 percent, according to The State of the News Media, an influential annual report released on Monday by The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

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On top of a drain in print advertising revenue, the gap between print and digital is startling: For every $1 gained in digital advertising there is a loss of $16 in print, the report said.

At the Post, print advertising declined 14 percent to $228.2 million in 2012. Digital advertising, which includes the online magazine Slate, increased 5 percent to $110.6 million.

Roughly 32 percent of all dailies in the U.S. charge for some kind of digital access, according to the report.

The New York Times Co., which launched a pay model in 2011, has been perhaps the most closely watched paper.

Paid digital subscribers to the newspaper and its international edition totaled 640,000 at the end of the fourth quarter. Circulation revenue surpassed advertising revenue at The New York Times for the first time in 2012.

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