Back in March, The Washington Post announced that they would be joining other major newspapers across the country and implement a paywall this year. On Wednesday, publisher Katharine Weymouth informed readers that beginning June 12, some of them may have to pay to access the paper online.
The Post will initially allow readers to access 20 pieces of content per month. That doesn’t include the homepage and section front pages, videos or classified ads. Did anyone think the Post would charge readers to view classified ads?
But readers shouldn’t get too agitated about the coming paywall, as the Post has left enough holes in it to drive a Mack truck through. Those getting free access include home-delivery subscribers as well as students, teachers, school administrators and government employees who access the paper at their schools and workplaces. Also, anyone coming to the Post website through search engines or shared links will have unlimited access.
If for some reason a reader can’t figure out how to get free access, then they can pay $9.99 per month for access to the desktop and mobile web only, and $14.99 for an all-digital package which includes access to all of the Post’s custom apps. I read the Post on a regular basis and I’m not sure what the custom apps are, but if Weymouth says they exist, they must exist.
Weymouth had been lobbying for a paywall for years, but had been rebuffed by former executive editor Marcus Brauchli and Post chairman Donald Graham. But Brauchli’s successor, Marty Baron, is a paywall proponent, and Graham’s resolve against a paywall seems to have faded as the company’s finances deteriorated.
There is no guarantee that a paywall will actually help the Post, as Weymouth hopes. And based on the numerous loopholes, it isn’t likely to generate much revenue, and is more likely to drive away readers, and in turn, online ad revenue.
Weymouth told readers that she wants to build a sustainable business, but this paywall isn’t the way to do it.