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The Washington Post Latest to Charge Heavy Website Users

The Washington Post has become the latest newspaper in the United States to announce that it will start charging frequent users of its website a monthly fee, joining the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and others in imposing a paywall on consumers.

The Post, like its rivals, has been suffering financially as readers have moved online, and its print circulation has shrunk. Last month the Post’s parent company announced a fourth quarter loss of $45.4 million as its newspaper-publishing arm posted a 5.8% decline in revenue.

The company said last year that a paywall was being considered but Donald Graham, chairman and chief executive of the Washington Post Company said the company had yet to find a model that would add to profits.

Katharine Weymouth, the publisher of the Post, said in a statement: “News consumers are savvy; they understand the high cost of a top-quality news gathering operation and the importance of maintaining the kind of in-depth reporting for which the Post is known.

“Our digital package is a valuable one, and we are going to ask our readers to pay for it and help support our news-gathering as they have done for many years with the print edition.”

The paper has not yet said how much it will charge and announced there would be exemptions for home-delivery subscribers, students, military and government employees and others.

Donald Graham, chairman and chief executive of the Washington Post Company, has been a critic of the paywall model in the past. “We are obviously looking at paywalls of every type. But the reason we haven’t adopted one yet is that we haven’t found one that actually adds to profits,” Graham said at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in December. “But we are going to continue to study every model of paywall and think about that, as well as think about keeping it free.”

In 2012 he questioned the logic of a paywall, arguing that it would not work as 90% of the paper’s readers are outside Washington.

Alan Mutter, consultant and author of the Newsosaur blog, said that about a third of US newspapers now had paywalls.

“I can see why they are doing it. They have swapped dollars of print advertising for dimes online and they need new revenues. My concern is that they will the sugar high of new revenues will not be used to develop new digital products”

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