In a move that’s sure to shift the media landscape in Vermont, the state’s largest daily newspaper, the Burlington Free Press, announced Thursday that it would start charging readers for online content later this year.
The Free Press’ parent company, Gannett, announced at an investor meeting Wednesday that all 80 of its community newspapers — but not its flagship property, USA Today — will limit readers’ access to between five and 15 articles per month, unless they purchase an online or print subscription.
“It’s a decision companywide, but you know it’s time we begin to charge for our content online,” Free Press publisher Jim Fogler said Thursday. “We’ve been giving it away for free. We should have done this a while ago.”
The pay wall is part of a “Triple Crown” of changes coming to 191 College Street, according to a company press release. The paper is rebuilding its 45-year-old printing press to the tune of $2.4 million, and it is shifting from a broadsheet format to a narrower, tabloid format. Fogler said he expects the new subscription model will launch when the press work is scheduled for completion this June.
“We’ve made a $2.4 million commitment to our community,” Fogler said. “We’re not going anywhere.
In an effort to bolster its online offerings, the Free Press purchased 18 iPhones for its reporters last week. Fogler hopes to turn Free Press reporters into “mobile journalists” — or “Mo-Jos,” as he calls them. At the same time, employees each have been forced to take one-week, unpaid furloughs this quarter, as they did last year.
“I will tell you, I’d much rather take a furlough, including myself, than to go through a round of layoffs,” Fogler said.