The Tallahassee Democrat has announced that, effective July 1, citizens will be required to pay a minimum of $9.95 to access a new digital version of the newspaper online. Gannet Company, an international media conglomerate operating over 90 daily newspapers, has chosen three cities in which to experiment with the new business model.

In recent years, some have openly wondered if the type of journalism that has sustained democracy since the American Revolution can survive. We have innovated in how we deliver news, but have operated under an old business model for how we pay for that journalism.

Today, we are announcing an historic change in how we do business, becoming one of the first community news outlets to take decisive steps toward protecting the journalism so vital to the social and economic well being of our community, now and long into the future.

Beginning July 1, we will be introducing a new model for our subscribers to pay for and access our valuable content either in print or online.

The move will place Tallahassee’s only daily newspaper among the very first in the country to adopt the new model. The Wall Street Journal walls off much of its online content already, and The New York Times has announced a frequent-visitor subscription service will begin in early 2011.

Full-media content/electronic delivery (digital and e-edition): For $14.95 per month, you get all of our websites and the e-edition replica version of the Tallahassee Democrat.

Web content (digital-only model): For $9.95 per month, you can subscribe to Tallahassee.com, NoleSports.com, RattlerNews.com and the full suite of Tallahassee.com affiliated websites.

Patrick Dorsey, the Democrat’s president and publisher, and Bob Gabordi, its executive editor, together authored the announcement, in which they make the claim that it’s simply not fair for half the audience to pay for a subscription, while the other half receives access for free: “This is about changing how we do business, not simply putting up a paywall on digital content.”

Gabordi maintains a blog on which he’s already received a number of comments, fairly well split between those opposed to the change and those willing to support the new approach, although he is confident that the “news and information products” offered by the Democrat will entice advertisers and consumers alike.

Media outlets have been struggling to figure out what to do with the Internet for 15 years, knowing we have had to be there, but not really sure how or why.  Many media outlets have experimented with charging for content on the web, but few – if any – local outlets have taken our new approach. They will be lined up to see how this works.

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