Thu, 08/17/2017 - 09:26

Posted by Belinda Alzner on August 21, 2012

Canada’s largest newspaper chain has gone live with paywalls on four of its newspapers’ websites, making users to pay for content they read online when they exceed the number of free articles allotted per month.

The move was expected, having been announced in MayThe Vancouver Sun, Vancouver Province and The Ottawa Citizen will take this approach, known as a metered paywall, beginning Tuesday. The National Post will employ a slightly different approach, making only international readers pay for access to its digital content.

The Province and The Sun will both allow readers 15 free articles in a 30-day period. The subscription cost for both papers will be 99 cents for the first 30 days, and $7.95 plus tax per month after that. Steve Ladurantaye reports in The Globe and Mail that The Citizen will also charge 99 cents initially, but that the monthly charge thereafter will be $9.95 plus tax.

“Print subscribers have always paid for our content. But until now, our online offerings have been free,” the Province editor-in-chief Wayne Moriarty wrote in a note to readers today. “The truth is, good journalism isn't free and we need to find a new business model to help pay for it.”

Blogs and breaking news will not count toward paywall limits. Postmedia vice president of communications Phyllisse Gelfand confirmed that breaking news will include local, national and international. Photo galleries as a whole will count as one article read.


At this time, there is no bundle deal available for users who wish to subscribe to more than one Postmedia newspaper website. Gelfand did not elaborate when asked if this would be a possibility in the future, instead saying in an email to J-Source that not all Postmedia websites are behind a paywall at this time and that “currently the multi-platform bundles offered (or the digital-only subscriptions) are for each newspaper separately.”

Print subscribers will be able to log in to have full access to the newspapers’ online content.

These are neither the first nor last Canadian publications to ask readers to pay for online content. Last year, Postmedia implemented similar paywalls on the websites for The Montreal Gazette and Victoria’s Times Colonist (Postmedia has since sold the latter newspaper to Glacier Media). In December 2011, Brunswick News put all of its titles behind a hard paywall, which forced readers to sign up for a subscription if they wanted to access any digital content. Northern News Services, which operates a large number of titles in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, has its content paywalled as well.

The Globe and Mail will soon join these Canadian titles, having announced a plan to put its content behind a metered paywall this fall. 


Felix Salmon at Wired, when writing of the paywall at the New York Times, says it is "working". Salmon also offers examples of museums that have allowed free entry experiencing their memberships increasing. What it comes down to is content. Do PostMedia papers print what people are willing to buy? Especially after getting it for free for so long?

The National Post can make this argument. I doubt, though, that the Windsor Star can say the same. Falling subscriptions and reduced advertising revenue coupled with a poor stable of writers churning out factually challenged opinion pieces. Who would pay for that? Readership have already spoken with their feet.

J-Source and ProjetJ are publications of the Canadian Journalism Project, a venture among post-secondary journalism schools and programs across Canada, led by Ryerson University, Université Laval and Carleton University and supported by a group of donors.