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Beachcomber to offer full access to its website to paid subscribers only

Effective December 1, The Beachcomber will allow full access to its online version to paid subscribers only.

The move is similar to one newspapers across the country are beginning to take as they work to ensure their ongoing financial viability. Unlimited free access to online content has affected newspapers’ bottom line, some industry analysts say, because it amounts to giving away a product that costs money to produce.

“It makes enormous sense to do this,” said Daralyn Anderson, The Beach-comber’s publisher. “High-quality journalism is not produced for free. This move reinforces the notion that we work hard to create a quality product week after week.”

The newspaper, she added, is financially healthy and has a strong circulation base and loyal readers. “This will only serve to strengthen that base,” she said.

The move won’t put all stories off limits to non-subscribers. Several stories — including breaking news, sports stories, obituaries and entertainment listings — will be available to anyone who visits the paper’s website, vashonbeachcomber.com.

But in-depth news and feature stories, investigative stories and special reports will amount to what Sound Publishing, the Beachcomber’s parent company, considers “premium content” and will be available only to those who subscribe to the paper.

In a first for The Beach-comber, the paper will allow readers to opt for an online-only subscription. It will also now be possible for readers to subscribe to both the print and web editions online.

“Those who are only interested in our online presence can enjoy The Beachcomber that way,” Anderson added. “The only thing that’s different is that we’re asking people to pay for it.”

Current subscribers have already received a letter instructing them on how to set up an online account that will give them complete access to the online edition, as well as the dozens of other papers in the region owned by Sound Publishing. Those who have questions or concerns should call Sound Publishing’s customer service center at 888-838-3000.

The trend towards paid online content has been gaining traction in recent years. The New York Times announced in January that it would erect a partial “pay wall” next January, giving itself a year to work out the details.

The Wall Street Journal and Newsday, two other highly regarded daily newspapers, already charge for access to major portions of their websites. In Washington state, several papers have also begun establishing paid online content, including the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin and Spokane’s Spokesman-Review, which made the move five years ago.

Some newspapers have moved towards pay walls with trepidation, a change they feared could push readers away.

But at the Spokesman-Review, according to a newspaper industry blog sponsored by the Poynter Institute, a leading journalistic think tank, “online traffic has stayed robust.” And after The New York Times announced its decision to erect a partial pay wall, it received thousands of e-mails, “with those saying they supported the move outnumbered by others who vowed not to pay,” according to the Times.

See the Opinion section for a commentary by editor Leslie Brown about why a pay wall makes journalistic sense, and read our FAQ..

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