News on the Internet is known to be free, which is why print circulation only makes up 27 percent of total newspaper media revenue, according to the Newspaper Association of America.
But this free news has come to a screeching halt for online readers of the Tampa Bay Times.
The Tampa Bay Times has taken away the luxury of reading the news for free and will now only allow online readers 15 page views per month before they are required to pay for a subscription. This is less than one page a day, excluding the home page.
While the model for bringing in revenue for online journalism has yet to be found, this clearly is not it, and readers will likely resort to other local news outlets, such as the Tampa Tribune or TV broadcasts.
A sidebar on the home page makes online readers aware of the new changes and it links them to a letter from Paul Tash, chairman and CEO of the Tampa Bay Times.
In the letter, Tash says there have been “substantial improvements” to tampabay.com and the change reflects the importance of electronic publishing. It informs readers that in order to get past 15 page views per month, they must register and pay a fee.
For unlimited digital access, the fee is $12 a month or $2 for 24-hour access. For those subscribed to a paper edition of the Tampa Bay Times, the fee is reduced by 50 percent to $6 a month. If readers wish to read the e-newspaper, an electronic replica of the print newspaper, the fee is $5 a month.
When online readers have viewed 10 pages, they are prompted to sign up for a subscription and told they only have five pages left.
But a $6 a month fee for people who already pay about $15 a month for a paper subscription is absurd. They should not have to pay for the same news twice.
Even the New York Times, the bastion of highly reputable journalism, does not charge print subscribers separately for online access, and charges $15 a month for unlimited access to its website and smartphone apps after 10 free articles a month.
To make the matter worse, according to the FAQ page, payments can only be made by a credit card and not check, invoice or PayPal. Payments will automatically renew unless the subscription is cancelled.
This may pose as an inconvenience for some people who do not wish to submit their credit card information online, particularly older demographics that are perhaps more likely to place value on paying for news.
While some may have the disposable money to pay for information that can be found elsewhere for free, many will probably find that $12 a month just isn’t worth it and the Tampa Bay Times should consider finding a more sustainable digital revenue model.
This opinion was selected by a majority vote of the managing and opinion editors.