AZCentral.Com Shake-Down: Online Content to Cost $10 a Month, Print Subscription Prices to Increase

See also: Art Critic Richard Nilsen Leaves His Post at the Arizona Republic

See also: Arizona Republic Lays Off 30 to 40, Announces Closure of Chandler Offset Plant will cost $10 a month to access after September 10, the Arizona Republic reports.

Home deliveries of the print edition will no longer be possible without signing up for a digital-access package, either. Current subscribers are warned to brace themselves for increases from seven to 25 cents.

This sort of pay-to-read system has become more popular as newspapers combat plummeting retail advertising revenue and a shrinking base of subscribers. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal have supposedly seen success with their "pay walls," but the concept has also been the subject of much criticism, as this link shared by the Tucson Sentinel details.

In any case, charging current subscribers and computer users will become a standard feature of the Republic and other newspapers under their parent corporation, Gannett Co. The company revealed its intentions at a February investment conference.

"Gannett projects a 25 percent increase in subscription revenue by the end of 2013, which is expected to translate into $100 million in additional earnings next year," the paper says. "Gannett's net income of $459 million in 2011 was down 22 percent from 2010. The company's revenue has dropped each year since 2006."

Dwindling profits caused employees of Arizona's biggest newspaper to be targeted in recent years for mandatory unpaid furloughs and lay-offs. In May, 24 veteran reporters and editors at the Republic left the paper as part of a Gannett-wide buy-out program.

Maybe hordes of computer users willing to pony up $120 a year will help solve the problem.

The paper had about 300,000 paid subscribers last year, and the stiff price increase on them -- assuming they don't bail in large numbers -- will be a large source of revenue from the new program. The rest depends on how many new users are willing to pay the $10 a month to view azcentral. If 100,000 people did it, the paper would be raking in an extra million a month. Not bad. And the extra clicks on the site would be attractive to potential online advertisers.

On the other hand, it's also possible that the program will cause a decrease in the current number of online viewers, which would be a turn-off for advertisers.

Casual viewers won't be totally locked out of the site after September, but they'll only be able to retrieve 20 free articles per month. More savvy surfers will find several ways to defeat the 20-article limit.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.