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Metered paywalls — a viable option for community journalism?

At the Center, we get questions about pretty much everything that goes on in local journalism, from how to get the school superintendent to stop flagrant violations of FOI laws to how to how fight Craigslist to whether or not you can pull a picture off Facebook and use it. But the issue generating the most queries, to paraphrase Hamlet, is this: to paywall or not to paywall; that is the question. And thus we probably have more Around the Web postings about paywalls than anything else. We try to pass along the commentary on this issue that’ll be the best use of your time, which is why we’re recommending Alan Mutter’s latest blogpost, ” latest pay scheme can succeed, but…” Mutter addresses the experiment that has a lot of community journalism’s interest right now — the new paywall at The New York Times. Basically, it’s paywall lite, and it goes into effect March 28. The new plan will allow readers to see 20 articles a month for free. If you want more, you pay. Theoretically, the plan will allow the paper to generate pageviews with the free content while still generating revenue from those who want more Wlll it work? Might this be viable option for community newspapers in the future? Check out Mutter’s discussion of the Times’ version of a paywall — it’s a good overview of the whole issue, plus an interesting take on whether metering might be the next big thing for newspapers.

By Kathryn Jones Malone

Kathryn Jones Malone is co-director of the Texas Center for Community Journalism. She began her career as a staff writer at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, then worked as a staff writer for the Dallas Times Herald and The Dallas Morning News; as a contract writer for The New York Times; as a writer-at-large for Texas Monthly magazine; as editor of the Glen Rose Reporter; and as a freelance writer for numerous state, regional and national magazines. She teaches journalism at Tarleton State University.