The Chicago Sun-Times will start charging all visitors to its websites, the newspaper said Tuesday.
Starting Thursday, readers will get 20 free page views every 30 days at any site in the Sun-Times Media Group, which includes the Sun-Times and other papers in the suburbs, the newspaper said (http://bit.ly/tz6s4k). After 20 views, readers will be required to subscribe.
Print subscribers will be offered a rate of $1.99 every four weeks. Online-only subscribers will pay $6.99 every four weeks, or about $78 annually.
The Sun-Times and other print media have struggled with an economic downturn and a migration of advertisers from print to the Web. Both the Sun-Times and Chicago's other major newspaper, the Chicago Tribune, have been through bankruptcy proceedings in recent years, slashing staffs and making other cutbacks.
"We think the time is long overdue for us to begin charging for our content," said Jeremy Halbreich, the chairman of Sun-Times Media. "It is certainly award-winning content and we need to find new ways to support it."
The Sun-Times won a coveted Pulitzer Prize _ considered the top award in journalism _ earlier this year for its local reporting on crime in city neighborhoods.
The honor came two years after local businessman James Tyree led an investment group to take the paper out of bankruptcy. Tyree died in March, one month before the award was announced.
The pay wall will also take effect at Sun-Times Media's member newspapers in Chicago's suburbs, including the Naperville Sun, the Beacon-News in Aurora, and the Evanston Review. The Daily Herald, which is focused on suburban Chicago, erected its own online pay wall in September.
Media analyst Alan Mutter said the Sun-Times plan was risky in a media market where the Tribune, local television stations and aggregators such as The Huffington Post don't charge for stories online. But the number of free views before readers hit a pay wall gives the Sun-Times flexibility, he said.
"The Sun-Times is going first," he said. "We'll find out how enforceable a pay wall is."
Information from: Chicago Sun-Times, http://www.suntimes.com/index