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Tgam, Van. Sun/province To Put Up Paywalls (Pay To Read Online Articles)

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The Globe and Mail is moving to charge readers for its online content, following a trend established by the New York Times and other major publications.

Publisher and chief executive officer Phillip Crawley told an all-staff meeting Thursday that the paper will implement a metered paywall system this fall, asking readers to pay if they read more than a certain number of articles each month.

The number of free articles per month hasn’t yet been announced, nor has pricing.

“We have chosen to go for the big move rather than do it a step at a time,” Mr. Crawley said. “Based on what we see going on in the advertising market, we’ve decided to go for it now. We had already made the decision, it was a case of how quickly we would do it.”

Mr. Crawley said the news organization had planned to implement a metered system for Report on Business content this fall, but accelerated plans to put all of the organization's content on a meter in response to an unpredictable advertising market that has seen both print and digital sales drop this spring at publishers in both North America and Europe.

Publishers have increasingly looked to paywalls to make up for declining ad revenues, emboldened by the apparent success of the New York Times. That company is expected to reap an $85-million haul from its online subscribers in 2012.

Mr. Crawley said the Globe has “obviously learned from their experience,” which has seen the Times reduce its number of free articles per month to 10 from the original 20. The Times doesn't count an article against a reader's count if they arrived at the Times site through social media services or search engines, and subscribers to the paper get free access.

Postmedia Network Inc. has experimented with metered paywalls at its daily newspapers in Montreal and Victoria, and said last month it would also put paywalls up at the Ottawa Citizen, Vancouver Sun and Vancouver Province.

Mr. Crawley also told employees that the paper would ask staff to take unpaid leaves this summer in an attempt to temporarily reduce costs. Details of the furloughs were not disclosed, and the company is working with the union to figure out how the system would work. The company has given employees a week to decide if they want time off.

“The union is on one hand glad we're not talking about permanent layoffs because they've seen what's happening in the rest of the industry,” he said. “I don't know how long this slowdown is going to last, and I hope by this fall we're back to a regular level of business and everyone is back to work on a new year. At this stage I couldn't give you an accurate forecast of that.”

Union chair Sue Andrew said she hopes the furloughs will help the paper control costs.

“We're hopeful that the request for unpaid time off will significantly reduce the company's need for further cost-cutting and that the company will hold talks with the Globe to minimize the effects of any temporary staff reductions,” she said.

Furloughs have been implemented at newspapers in the United States since the recession, as papers try to hold on to their employees until business improves. Gannett Co. Inc., which publishes papers in major cities as well as USA Today, recently announced a round of furloughs that will see employees take one week without pay by June 24. It's the fourth time in four years that USA Today workers have been asked to take unpaid leaves.

In other news, Canucks Talk posting goes down.

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The Times Colonist has been doing this for a few months now. I think it may have been a pilot project for the Sun, Province and other papers in the group.

With the TC you get to view 20 articles for free every month, and then you have to pay. Except I refuse to pay, so once I hit my 20 articles, I stop reading. I am disappointed they are expanding this project. I was hoping that it would fail at the TC and not spread to other papers.

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Wow, this is pretty unfortunate as I go on TGAM for some editorial fodder and VP for Canucks articles. I imagine this wouldn't apply to an individual staffers blog. Hopefully Kim Bolan's The Real Scoop and The Province's White Towel will still be free - I can't see why they wouldn't be.

None of those aforementioned publications will reap anywhere near the NYT's $85M for online content though. Won't be very long until every newspaper online is doing the same thing.

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