Chicago Tribune to Online Readers: Pay Up

Chicago Tribune will be the latest major newspaper to erect a paywall, starting Nov. 1

The Chicago Tribune said Thursday that it will erect a paywall on its website next month joining the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times with online subscription plans.

Getty ImagesFour months ago, the newspaper launched a redesigned website requiring registration to view premium content, prompting a climb in traffic. But full digital access will cost $14.99 per month starting Nov. 1.

Seven-day print subscribers will have unlimited online access, but home-delivery customers who get the paper on fewer days will be charged $2 more per month to view the whole website. Daily print subscriptions cost about $75 a year.

"After launching the new in June, we spent the ensuing weeks studying the digital habits of our consumers through their free online registration and direct feedback," Bill Adee, vice president for digital development and operations at the Tribune, said in a memo to the staff. "Based on that data, along with price testing, we have put together what we call the digitalPLUS package."

Also read: L.A. Times to Put Up Its Paywall March 5

The Tribune said it has registered 230,000 digital users since June 28. The site receives about 3.5 million unique users each month, according to Quantcast. The Audit Bureau of Circulation reported last year that the newspaper had an average of 425,370 print readers.

Two of the Tribune's fellow Second City newspapers — the Chicago Sun-Times and Crain's Chicago Business — have launched digital subscription plans this year.

The New York Times put up a paywall in March 2011 and since attracted 509,000 digital subscribers. The Gray Lady's subscription fees range from $15 to $35, and visitors get 10 free articles per month.

Tribune Company, which owns the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and six other daily newspapers, has been testing the waters with paywalls since last October.

In March, the Times rolled out a metered paywall, charging customers 99 cents for the first month, then $3.99 a week after that. Online access was included at no extra charge for print subscribers.

The Times also served as a guinea pig for the media giant's ebook initiative, having launched an in-house ebook publishing arm at late last year at the newspaper. Last week, the Chicago paper announced an ebook program of its own.

The move to monetize the cash-strapped newspapers comes as Tribune prepares to emerge from a nearly four-year-long Chapter 11 bankruptcy.