Nfld. & Labrador

Readers to pay extra for 'deeper dives' — but don't call it a paywall, says SaltWire CEO

The owner of 10 newspapers in Newfoundland and Labrador will soon begin charging added fees to read some of its articles online.

The Telegram, Western Star among SaltWire's N.L. newspapers

Mark Lever, the head of SaltWire Network, says some 'premium content' from its 10 newspapers in Newfoundland and Labrador will soon be available online only through a subscription. (Paula Gale/CBC)

The owner of 10 newspapers in Newfoundland and Labrador will soon begin charging added fees to read some of its articles online. 

Earlier this week, SaltWire Network announced a new metered online subscription model that would keep spot news and breaking news available at no charge, while "premium content" will be available on its website only through subscription.

Mark Lever, the head of SaltWire, says the paid content will be exclusive material and "deeper dives" that will be different from the material available for free from other media.

"We've really challenged our journalists to look deeper into stories so we can get the story behind the story," he told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

"We can see the change in engagement with our readers on all our sites.… We've been really pushing to try and find the unique angle, the local angle."

Lever said the company launched the same subscription model with the Chronicle Herald in Halifax before Christmas, and it has exceeded early expectations.

Paywalls abandoned

But the new model is not a paywall that would require user to pay to access any and all articles.

Lever said the Newfoundland and Labrador newspapers the company acquired in 2017, which include the Telegram and the Western Star, have all tried using paywalls in the past, but gave it up when readership dropped.

"Many newspapers, including the ones I was involved in, we've all tried the paywall and got so scared and abandoned [it] quickly," he said.

The Telegram in St. John's is one of the newspapers that will be moving to SaltWire's new subscription model. (Cecil Haire/CBC)

Lever said while declining sales of print newspapers have leveled off, online newspaper subscriptions are on the rise around the world and his company's readership has never been higher.

"The decline has stopped. I hate to say we've hit bottom, but we've seen a real stabilization in the printed circulation of our dailies in Newfoundland," he said.

Lever said while digital journalism can offer additional detail, the print newspaper still has the advantage of offering a bundle of stories together to paint a broader picture.

We're excited to tell local stories and try to dive a little deeper.- Mark Lever

"If you read the paper, you really touch on a lot of different things, from sports and culture, to news and business that's happening in your community," he said.

"Digitally, you can go a mile deep on any subject and it's hard to get the full breadth of what's happening locally, so we see that as our big advantage.… We're excited to tell local stories and try to dive a little deeper."

Lever said there's plenty of competition online with other media, but SaltWire plans to continue to devote resources and money to local, original journalism.

In a statement printed in its newspapers, SaltWire said the online change will be made in late February and current print subscribers will have access to paid online content with no additional charge.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show

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