Changing Times: Readers at Odds Over Online Paywalls - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Changing Times: Readers at Odds Over Online Paywalls

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SALISBURY, Md.- It has long been a morning tradition in homes all across America: A cup of coffee, complemented by a read through the newspaper. But it is a tradition that is on the decline, and Delmarva is no exception.

From print to online, many local papers find themselves struggling to stay afloat and remain relevant. That includes The Daily Times, a more than 125-year-old publication here on Delmarva, now owned by Gannett.

Up until now, readers have been able to check out articles online free of charge. But following in the footsteps of papers all across the country, free is becoming just another thing of the past.

Based on print subscriptions alone, the story of The Daily Times mirrors the story of papers all across the country.

"The subscription numbers are down, but it's interesting that the online growth is actually higher, though the subscriptions are down," explained executive editor Greg Bassett.

As times change in a digital, fast-paced world, so must papers.

According to Bassett, charging a monthly subscription fee for online access is the way to keep up.

"If we want to improve our journalism, which we really want to do, we have to reinvest in it," he noted. "As newspapers have cut over the last decade, as the recession has hurt newspapers, its been hard to invest in news but our community deserves all the investment that we can put in to gathering news, and we want to do that."

Yet some readers disagree.

"There are always alternative news sources and people are going to find them and I think they're unwilling to pay subscription fees and that will only drive away people from them," said Salisbury resident Matt Blackwell.

"I think that sort of negates the convenience of online information," added Arnett Custer, also of Salisbury.

The idea of so-called paywalls is not new. And the Times is banking on that fact to reinvest in its product.

"I think it helps that a lot of the newspapers have already gone to this model," Bassett remarked. "In our market, in Talbot County, the newspaper there has done it for a long time, The Baltimore Sun has done it, so I think people are getting used to this more and more. They want the news on the go and they're willing to pay for that."

Online access is included under the subscription fee for print subscribers, while full digital access for everyone else starts at $10 a month.

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