Another local Murdoch paper puts up a paywall

Another one of the local newspapers controlled by News Corp. mogul Rupert Murdoch has pulled up the gates around its content online.

The Cape Cod Times put its site behind a paywall two weeks ago, following in the footsteps of its sister paper, The Standard-Times of New Bedford, which made the same move last January. Murdoch acquired both papers when he bought Dow Jones & Co. in 2007 to win control of its crown jewel, The Wall Street Journal.

At CapeCodOnline you can view up to 10 “articles, videos and galleries” per month for free – three without registering and seven more if you sign up. Then you hit the paywall.

The pricing is a little byzantine. If you subscribe to the print edition, full access to the website costs an additional $20.28 per year. For non-print-subscribers, the options range from $128.96 annually for the e-edition and 10 monthly pageviews up to $178.88 for unlimited access to the Web and mobile versions of CapeCodOnline.

“More and more people are turning to the Web to read their news and information,” Peter Meyer, president of the Cape Cod Media Group, said when he announced the new policy. “We need to monetize that in some fashion and this seems like the best way.”

One Nesi’s Notes reader who has already hit Meyer’s wall sent along this screenshot after he unhappily realized he’d wasted one of his 10 free monthly views on a story that turned out to be only two sentences long:

That actually points to one of the problems that paywalls cause for publishers – it forces readers to think hard every time they click on a story. (“Do I want to waste one of my allotted views on this?”) The paywall gets in the way of the story, and creates anxiety for the reader.

Still, newspapers have to make money somehow. Two months back, Standard-Times editor Mary Harrington told me she was pleased with how the paywall was working there. The New Bedford paper had 1,101 e-edition subscribers as of Sept. 30, according to the latest circulation figures.

Murdoch is making a big bet that readers will pay for his newspapers’ content in digital form – The Wall Street Journal was a leader on this front even before he bought it, and since then he has walled off The Times of London and announced similar plans for his British tabloids. He’s also reportedly spending $30 million to create a new digital newspaper specifically for Apple’s iPad.

With the Projo, The New York Times and The Boston Globe all planning to start charging for online content next year, the Cape Cod paper’s move provides more evidence that 2011 will be the Year of the Paywall for the newspaper industry.

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