The conventional wisdom among media executives is that if newspaper readers will pay for any online content, it’s most likely going to be financial news and possibly sports news. The Tuscaloosa News is about to put that to the test. The New York Times-owned paper has started a subscription-based offshoot of its sports news site, TideSportsExtra. The original TideSports site will remain free, at least for now. In exchange for more extensive coverage of the hometown’s University of Alabama’s athletics, readers will have to fork over $10 per month, or $59.95 per year, for site access.
It’s been about four years since another site, Atlanta’s AJC.com, tried to make a go of an sports subscription site. While AJC claims it exceeded its goal of getting 3,000 subscribers, it says it decided it could do better with advertising revenues by letting users access it free. Whether there’s enough demand for certain types of online content to cover the cost of creating that content, of course, remains a huge question mark, especially in this economy. Until there’s more clarity on that, more newspapers are likely to dip their toes into the paid-content waters with attempts like this one and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s new online adjunct, PG-Plus.
By David Kaplan