Bay Area Newspaper Sites to Charge for Content

San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times to offer premium Web subscriptions

By Jackson West
|  Tuesday, May 12, 2009  |  Updated 3:00 PM PDT
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Bay Area Newspaper Sites to Charge for Content

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Struggling to sell papers and online ads, the San Jose Mercury News will start charging for some Web content.

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A memo from Dean Singleton, the CEO of MediaNews which owns many local papers including the Contra Costa Times and the San Jose Mercury News, announced his company's plan to start charging for access to some news content online.

The decision cited insufficient revenue from online advertising, and suggested that by offering content for free it devalued what the papers offered.

While short on details, the executives vowed to look at a number of different approaches, and that part of the plan will be an effort to reach out to younger readers who haven't developed the newsprint habit.

A new portal, Local.com, was also part of the announcement.

Newspapers have been struggling with a decline in circulation and advertising revenue.

The San Francisco Chronicle in particular has struggled, but this could be good news for that fishwrap -- by not charging, it could pick up the audience that MediaNews might lose when it begins charging.

Jackson West figures they can't have much to lose -- besides readers.

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