‘Dispatch’ To Charge For Web Access

By: Wayne Robins

Want milk? Better have dough.

That’s the word from The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, which next month will begin charging those who don’t subscribe to the print edition $4.95 for access to its Web site, http://www.dispatch.com.

“Beginning Oct. 1, if you want to milk dispatch.com for information, you’re going to have to help feed the cow,” Benjamin J. Marrison, editor of the Dispatch, wrote in a column that appeared in Sunday’s print editions. The announcement and a link to Marrison’s column and FAQs are featured prominently on the Dispatch.com home page.

Marrison’s column noted that his paper was joining the Albuquerque (N.M.) Journal; The Gazette in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and the Rochester, Minn., Post-Bulletin in charging about the same amount, $60 a year, for online access. With circulation of 224,204 weekdays and 367,546 Sundays, the Dispatch may be the largest metro daily to charge for online content. (The Wall Street Journal, of course, also charges for its Web content). The Dispatch had already started requiring free registration to access its site.

Print subscribers will continue to have free access to Dispatch.com. And beginning in December, there will be a digital replica of the print newspaper known as the eDispatch to which online subscribers will have the same access.

The Dispatch editor noted his paper’s pioneering efforts with digital journalism, dating back to 1981 and CompuServe’s electronic news experiment. CompuServe is also headquartered in Columbus.

Marrison detailed to Dispatch readers the cold logic behind the move. “Businesses rarely make money giving away their products, and we can’t continue either,” he wrote. His kicker suggested every free online news outlet’s nightmare. “A local political consultant told me more than a year ago that he stopped subscribing to the daily newspaper because he could get the information free from our Web site. ‘You guys are crazy — you’re giving it away,’ he said. We can’t do it anymore.”

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