USA Today joins other top news outlets to pay readers for its website.


When USA Today was introduced nearly 40 years ago, its short articles, copious charts and detailed weather coverage were scorned by the newspaper industry, which nonetheless quickly found itself copying many of the upstart’s novel features. .

But on Wednesday, USA Today announced that it was catching up with its contemporaries, becoming the last major national daily to require readers to pay to read news online.

In pay attention Published online for readers Wednesday and in print, two executives from Gannett, the newspaper chain owned by USA Today, spoke.

“This is a big change; our digital news has always been free,” wrote Maribel Perez Wadsworth, publisher of USA TODAY and director of news at Gannett, and Nicole Carroll, editor-in-chief of USA Today. “But USA Today was founded on courage. Your membership is an investment in quality journalism, worth paying for, for journalism that strengthens our communities and our nation.”

USA Today’s shift to the digital subscription model, which follows the rest of Gannett’s roughly 250 dailies that have already made the change, signaled the definite end of an era when newspapers were the only source for revenue. Relied mainly on advertisements in its print edition. As readers flock to smartphones, laptops and tablets, the overall value of print readership and advertising declines, with newspapers increasingly charging digital readers the most important revenue stream.

Gannett’s chief marketing and strategy officer, Mayur Gupta, pointed to USA Today’s branded destinations in an interview, saying the announcement could mark the beginning of USA TODAY’s transition into a subscription company. Sports betting and sport. It also makes sense for Gannett to offer subscriptions that bundle USA Today and a local newspaper in the future, he said.

“It is inevitable that at some point we will piece this together to create a very strong value proposition,” said Mr. Gupta, a former executive at streaming giant Spotify.

Gannett’s digital outlets, which include its local news websites, regularly receive about 90 million unique visitors per month, the company said. According to media measurement company comScore, this puts it on a par with paywalls such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. USA Today has the highest workday print circulation in the country. It does not publish print editions on weekends.

The paywall will expand to the entire USA Today audience. But it will not cover all the stories. Breaking news, especially of a public service nature, will remain free, Ms. Perez Wadsworth and Ms. Carroll said. Paywall money will help fund the already beef-up testing unit and visual journalism, he said.

In an interview, Ms. Perez Wadsworth promoted the strength of the so-called USA Today Network, which includes local papers published by Gannett in 46 states such as The Arizona Republic and The Detroit Free Press.

“The fact that we have deep roots, expertise and trust in local markets is a huge strength for those brands and for USA TODAY, as our national reports are informed by that expert local knowledge,” she said.

There will be three subscriptions for sale, all with low monthly prices for the first three months, which will later scale higher: a digital-only tier, with an entry price of $4.99 per month, which will increase to $9.99 per month; a digital-only tier without ads, starting at $7.99 and going up to $12.99; And a home-delivery subscription that includes full digital access will increase to $29.25 with a teaser rate of $9.99.

Wednesday’s announcement follows a pilot over the past few months in which 25 percent to 50 percent of USA TODAY digital visitors were faced with paywalls. Gannett executives found that customers were spending at least 20 percent more time than anonymous users, Mr. Gupta said.

Ms Perez Wadsworth said she was encouraged by the results of the pilot. “When we focus on what is unique and exclusive to us,” she said, “our readers choose to subscribe.”

Alain Delaquérière contributed to the research



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