The SouthtownStar, Chicago Sun-Times and other Sun-Times Media websites will be requiring users to pay for access starting Thursday.
The company announced its new "pay meter" system late Tuesday. This is how the pay meter will work, according to company officials.
- Users will get 20 free page views every 30 days
- If you want to view more, you'll need to purchase an online subscription.
- If you subscribe to the printed newspaper, online access will cost $1.99 every four weeks.
- Digital-only subscriptions will cost $77.87 annually or $6.99 every four weeks.
The Sun-Times is the first downtown daily to charge a fee to view online stories. The northwest suburban Daily Herald implemented a similar system last year. The free community weeklies published by 22nd Century Media in Orland Park, Tinley Park and the Lincoln-Way communities also charge for access to their websites.
"We think the time is long overdue for us to begin charging for our content," reads a quote from Sun-Times Media Chairman Jeremy Halbreich in the announcement. "It is certainly award-winning content and we need to find new ways to support it."
[ Read the Full Announcement: Sun-Times Media Online Sites to Begin Metered Pay Plan ]
The pay meter plan coincided with Sun-Times Media enacting another round of layoffs across the company last week, according to Crain's Chicago Business.
Veteran Southtown sports reporter and columnist Tim Cronin was among those asked to leave. Award-winning Sun-Times photojournalist Jean Lachat, who owns Jean Lachat Photography in Mokena, also was laid off.
Five years ago, close to four dozen news, sports and community reporters worked out of the company's 159th Street office on Tinley Park — a building that will soon house the nation's largest Menard's home improvement store. Today, six full-time reporters cover the south suburbs for the paper from a small office condo on 183rd Street.
The move to charge for local news and information online comes after years of layoffs, bankruptcy, asset sales, outsourcing and new talk of a potential buyer for the Sun-Times company.
Merrick Ventures LLC CEO Michael Ferro Jr. is assembling a group of investors that includes Madison Dearborn Partners LLC Chairman John Canning Jr. to make a bid for Sun-Times Media Holdings LLC, according to people familiar with the effort.
Mr. Ferro has been discussing an offer for the newspaper publisher over the last several weeks, the people said.
In March, Sun-Times lost its chairman and the architect of its September 2009 acquisition when part-owner James Tyree died. His abrupt death left his co-owners, without the visionary who was spearheading their attempt to transform the company into a much more digital, 21st-century media company. The partners paid $5 million plus the assumption of $20 million in debt.
[ Read the Full Story: Chicago Investor Group Planning Sun-Times Acquisition ]
Reactions among Sun-Times readers to the pay meter, via website comments, were mixed and occasionally humorous Wednesday.
3:48 PM on December 6, 2011
Good luck on this one. I'm not paying, and neither will anyone else.
franks for everything
3:54 PM on December 6, 2011
speak for yoiurself - I'd gladly pay it... can't get everything for free.... well unless you're on welfare and section 8... but most people can't get everything for free
5:07 PM on December 6, 2011
5:20 PM on December 6, 2011
But where will the raving derelicts who type only in caps or ramble on and on about seemingly unrelated stories post now? Has anyone thought about their welfare??