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Washington Post announces a (very leaky) paywall

Jeff John Roberts

The Washington Post will charge for access to its website beginning this summer. The move, which the company announced on Monday, confirms recent rumors and ends the Post’s role as the last major American newspaper besides USA Today holding out against paywalls.

The role of paywalls and the strategy for deploying them remains a hot topic for publishers, and will be the subject of a paidContent Live panel on April 17th, “How to monetize digital content: Advertising or Paywall.”

In the case of the Post, its paywall will be a leaky one that allows readers to view 20 free articles a month with no limit for its home page, section front pages or classifieds. Students and teachers will have unlimited access at school, while civil servants and military personnel will have unlimited access at work. Home delivery subscribers will get a free digital subscription. The paper will also not count visits that come by way of Google or social media against a reader’s monthly quota. The Post has not yet announced how much a digital subscription will cost.

This type of porous paywall, which aspire to nudge readers to subscribe without driving them away, is now commonplace. The New York Times, a pioneer of paywall strategies, made its paid website easily accessible at first but has since reduced the number of free articles and cut off popular workarounds.

As Forbes notes, the imposition of a paywall (however leaky) appears to be a victory for investor Warren Buffett, an advocate of paid content, over the Graham family, which controls the paper and has historically been opposed to charging for the website.

The Post is also experimenting with other models to raise revenue, including sponsored stories.

Clarification: this story was updated Tuesday morning to state that USA Today does not have a paywall.

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