Publisher: Salt Lake Tribune to start charging fees to online readers

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The publisher of the Salt Lake Tribune says next year, the state's largest daily will start charging readers a fee to look at some content on the web.

This is big news in the news world, where there's been furious debate over the issue. But Dean Singleton, CEO of MediaNews Group and publisher of the Salt Lake Tribune, says it's time for the Trib to stop giving away all of its content.

"We can't continue to give everything away for free," says Singleton. "When you give it away for free, it has no value. When you begin charging for it, it has some value."

Singleton spoke Thursday night to the National Conference of Editorial Writers, a group well aware of the industry's rising costs and falling income.

SL Tribune publisher Dean Singleton says it's time for the newspaper to stop giving away all of its content.
SL Tribune publisher Dean Singleton says it's time for the newspaper to stop giving away all of its content.

All news organizations--magazines, radio, TV, including KSL--are feeling similar pressures. Singleton says since 2006, revenues for metro dailies nationally are down 40 percent; 30 of the 50 biggest papers are losing money.

One solution: charge for specialized coverage. How about $9.95 for news about your favorite professional sports team?

"I think most companies will begin to take their most valuable content—think sports, think hyper-local news, perhaps entertainment, and put some of that content behind a pay wall," Singleton says.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, for instance, now has two websites: one free; one paid.

"We've tried to come up with features people would enjoy and wouldn't mind paying for," says Tom Waseleski, editorial page editor for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Singleton says he's still bullish on the newspaper business, which he says has the nation's biggest news audience, and he believes Utah can sustain two major dailies.

"I suspect that Salt Lake City will have two newspapers for most of the rest of our lives," Singleton says.

Subscribers would still be able to access all of the paper's stories at no extra charge, and things like breaking news would be free. Singleton says he plans to implement the changes throughout his company, which owns 54 dailies in 11 states.


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