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Chronicle’s new premium site: more news, less schlock

Monday, March 25, 2013

san francisco chronicleThe Chronicle unveiled a new pay-walled site over the weekend, SFChronicle.com, which serious consumers of news should find to be a qualitative upgrade from SFGate. It’s clean, has the neatly organized look of a newspaper, and is devoid of the celebrity fodder, cheesecake and content farm link-bait that has cheapened the latter. SFGate will still be around, although one wonders for how long, especially since content deemed premium (including the work of Chronicle columnists) will be reduced to snipped-off teasers on the Gate.

SFChronicle.com comes amid a new wave of effort by newspapers to squeeze subscriber revenue from their digital products and less than a week after the Washington Post, long a hold-out, announced it will go behind a modified pay-wall this summer.

The big question, of course, is whether non-subscribers to the Chronicle’s print edition (or at least enough of them) will fork over $12 a month for the new digital offering. Or, for that matter, whether the Chron’s Sunday-only print subscribers will pony up an additional $100 a year for it. It comes as an add-on for 7-day print subscribers. (Check the cost; your mileage may vary.) The screen grab above is from PaidContent, which has a story.

Related: One small change unique to the new platform so far: star columnist Willie Brown, who is famously exempt from the Chronicle’s ethics policies, has a new descriptor beneath his byline: “Freelance columnist.”

Also worth noting: Blogger Jim Romenesko was quick to point out that the pay-wall announcement itself was originally behind a pay wall. But alas, you may now read it for free.

Ultimate irony? Also via Romenesko, from an anonymous Chronicle staffer:
“I wish I could leak you the text of the announcement, but management won’t give employees logins to the premium site unless we buy a subscription. So we can’t even read our own work!”

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