Sun-Times to charge for online access

How desperate can they get? On Tuesday, the Sun-Times Media Group announced it was erecting a paywall for its papers’ website beginning on Thursday. The paywall goes up for all of the company’s newspapers, including the south suburbs’ SouthtownStar, Northwest Indiana’s Post-Tribune, and the Chicago Sun-Times itself.

Beginning on Thursday, visitors are allowed 20 free page views a month. But any subsequent page views will be only for subscribers.

The Sun-Times plans to charge digital subscribers $6.99 per month for the privilege of visiting their website. Home delivery subscribers, you have to ante up too – but for a lower price of $1.99 a month. Yearly subscriptions cost $77.87 (a savings of a whopping $.50)

The front page and section fronts will remain free to visitors, as are the classified sections and advertising pages.

The paywall comes as the Sun-Times is battling declining circulation (reported at 200,000) and declining revenues. The paper filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy several years ago, but the paper emerged out of bankruptcy under new owner Jim Tyree. However, Mr. Tyree died earlier this year, putting the future of the Sun-times in question.

Recently, there were two offers made to purchase the financially-strapped paper, but current management has stated on record that the paper isn’t for sale.

Even though the Sun-Times becomes the first downtown-based Chicago paper to charge for online access, it is not the first newspaper in the Chicago area to charge for online access – that distinction goes to The Daily Herald, who paper mostly serves the western and northwestern suburbs.

It is not known if Roger Ebert’s website (which is part of the Sun-Times’ web offerings) will be part of the paywall (UPDATE: RogerEbert.com is not part of the paywall.)

Thought: Would you pay nearly $80 a year for a Sun-Times online subscription? Read past articles I wrote about the Sun-Times’ content here and here and see if you are still willing to ante up. While yours truly isn’t necessarily opposed to paywalls, the content better be worth it – look at the stellar material The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal churns out -defiantly worth paying for. But the Sun-Times? Their content – not to mention the constant pop-up ads, slow load times, missing articles when you click their links, and stories that mainly rely on AP and Reuters, isn’t worth five cents. Its just another nail in the coffin for what was once a good newspaper – even when it had morons like Jay Mariotti¬† running around the place. They spent the last three years laying off quality people and cutting good columnists – now they want their readers to burden the weight for the mistakes management has made, which resulted in putting out an inferior product. Hell, you can get the annoying AP Video scroll on TVNewsCheck for free!

I wouldn’t pay a penny to read material from Mark Brown or Mary Mitchell, let anyone pay one penny to even look at them. Now the Sun-Times is actually saying that their “quality journalism” isn’t free. For the last few years, their journalism been anything but quality.

Updated at 11:42 p.m. on 2011-12-07

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