Local News
11:30 am
Mon November 26, 2012

Lexington Herald-Leader Erecting Paywall for Kentucky.com

Kentucky's second largest newspaper is following the lead of Kentucky's largest, moving to a subscription model for its website.

In other words, you'll get a 15 free stories on the Lexington Herald-Leader's website -- Kentucky.com -- per month; after that, you'll have to pay, according to an announcement published today.

Currently, the Lexington Herald-Leader's website is free of charge. The print edition of the newspaper costs $1, except on Sundays.

The change starts Dec. 4. Here's more on the pricing:

If you are a Lexington Herald-Leader newspaper subscriber, you can add the digital bundle to your newspaper subscription for an additional $0.60 per week. If you already enjoy your print newspaper with eEdition, you will receive access to the full digital bundle for only $0.36 per week. Whether your newspaper subscription is 7-days, weekends or Sunday only, you will have access to our digital products 24/7. Adding the digital bundle to your newspaper subscription is our best deal.

If you do not have a Lexington Herald-Leader newspaper subscription and want only digital access, you can purchase the digital bundle alone for $9.99 per month (or $119.88 per year if paid annually). We know you will love our new Herald-Leader + digital package, so for the first month, you will only be charged $.99. After that monthly trial, you will be charged $9.99 per month.

The Courier-Journal, in Louisville, went to a similar subscription model for its website earlier this year. In the third-quarter earnings report from The C-J's parent company, Gannett, circulation revenue increased 10 percent -- largely due to the move to a paywall, The New York Times reported earlier this fall. (The Times, it should be noted, has a paywall. So does the Wall Street Journal and a growing number of newspapers across the nation.)

The Wall Street Journal added this about Gannett:

There is no question the fundamentals of the industry remain challenged. Newspaper print advertising, which has fallen by half since 2005, is expected to be down again in the third quarter. But paywalls have begun to give newspapers a way to slow, and in some cases reverse, circulation declines, raise prices and open up a new source of revenue.

More broadly, charging for digital access also allows newspapers to reduce their reliance on volatile advertising toward more stable circulation revenue—a story that investors like to hear, analysts say.

So, nationwide, digital subscriptions appear to be paying off for newspapers, giving them stronger circulation numbers to tout. Here's Poynter.org's analysis of circulation figures from October:

With the fast adoption of paywall systems, paid digital has risen to 15.3 percent of the total, compared to 9.8 percent in the 2011 period. That means print numbers are falling by roughly an equal amount.

That change is not surprising given digital pay plan trends. More than 300 papers now charge for digital, with 70 of Gannett’s 80 community papers making the switch and McClatchy’s 30 just beginning a similar roll-out.So digital-only subs are on the rise. Plus the many papers that offer a bundled subscription including print and several digital platforms can count users on each of those additional platforms as new circulation, so long as the digital option is accessed once a month.

The Herald-Leader is owned by McClatchy.

For further reading on the whole paywall issue, read this October study which found that readers are willing to pay for web news -- if they think paying is justified.