If you’re a Star Tribune subscriber who’s fumed about waiting four days to read “print only” Sunday stories online, or pay an extra $20 a year for “Access Vikings” premium coverage, change has finally come.
On Monday, the Strib launched “Subscriber Access,” which lets print and e-edition subscribers view any digital content for no extra charge.
The Strib will apparently retain its Sunday exclusives; non-subscribers will still have to wait until Wednesday to view them. Likewise, “Access Vikings” premium content, unveiled to near-universal indifference during the scintillating 2009 season, has been revived. For those unwilling to subscribe, Purple premium costs $5.95 for three months or $19.95 a year.
Earlier this year, Strib CEO Mike Klingensmith announced a doctrine that print payers could freely access any digital content the operation produced; this is his make-good. At the time, Klingensmith called blocking subscribers from premium Vikings content “a mistake.”
This strategy is all about preserving current subscribers by giving them “added value” online. There’s always a chance a few web addicts will become subscribers to vault the pay wall.
For now, non-subscribers aren’t any worse off than they have been. However, this is where the Strib hopes to find new cash, when a website redesign debuts, probably early next year.
Klingensmith has said it will involve “metering,” which will force non-subscribers to pay up after they’ve clicked on a certain number of free stories.
The meter allows the Strib to vary the pay wall depending on type of story, or how a reader finds it — say, through a search engine or social network. Of course, many news outlets have found that non-subscribers simply leave when the cash register begins ringing.
According to a Strib memo, print or e-subscribers will have to link their online registration to their account numbers — a simple enough process once you find your bill. Pay walled stories will carry the “premium” tag, but subscribers can pay it no mind, except to know they don’t have to worry about it any more.