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SouthtownStar and Sun-Times to Require Payment for Online News

A meter system goes into effect starting Thursday, and users will have to pay $1.99 every four weeks to $77.87 for an entire year of access. What do you think? Take the Patch poll.

The SouthtownStar, Chicago Sun-Times and other Sun-Times Media websites will be requiring users to pay for access starting Thursday.

The company announced its new "pay meter" system late Tuesday. This is how the pay meter will work, according to company officials.

  • Users will get 20 free page views every 30 days
  • If you want to view more, you'll need to purchase an online subscription.
  • If you subscribe to the printed newspaper, online access will cost $1.99 every four weeks.
  • Digital-only subscriptions will cost $77.87 annually or $6.99 every four weeks.

The Sun-Times is the first downtown daily to charge a fee to view online stories. The northwest suburban Daily Herald implemented a similar system last year. The free community weeklies published by 22nd Century Media in Orland Park, Tinley Park and the Lincoln-Way communities also charge for access to their websites.

"We think the time is long overdue for us to begin charging for our content," reads a quote from Sun-Times Media Chairman Jeremy Halbreich in the announcement. "It is certainly award-winning content and we need to find new ways to support it."

[ Read the Full Announcement: Sun-Times Media Online Sites to Begin Metered Pay Plan ]

The pay meter plan coincided with Sun-Times Media enacting another round of layoffs across the company last week, according to Crain's Chicago Business.

Veteran Southtown sports reporter and columnist Tim Cronin was among those asked to leave. Award-winning Sun-Times photojournalist Jean Lachat, who owns Jean Lachat Photography in Mokena, also was laid off.

Five years ago, close to four dozen news, sports and community reporters worked out of the company's 159th Street office on Tinley Park — a building that will soon house . Today, six full-time reporters cover the south suburbs for the paper from a small office condo on 183rd Street.

The move to charge for local news and information online comes after years of layoffs, bankruptcy, asset sales, outsourcing and new talk of a potential buyer for the Sun-Times company.

Crain's reported last week that a group of investors is assembling a $14 million bid for the Sun-Times:

Merrick Ventures LLC CEO Michael Ferro Jr. is assembling a group of investors that includes Madison Dearborn Partners LLC Chairman John Canning Jr. to make a bid for Sun-Times Media Holdings LLC, according to people familiar with the effort.

Mr. Ferro has been discussing an offer for the newspaper publisher over the last several weeks, the people said.

In March, Sun-Times lost its chairman and the architect of its September 2009 acquisition when part-owner James Tyree died. His abrupt death left his co-owners, without the visionary who was spearheading their attempt to transform the company into a much more digital, 21st-century media company. The partners paid $5 million plus the assumption of $20 million in debt.

[ Read the Full Story: Chicago Investor Group Planning Sun-Times Acquisition ]

Reactions among Sun-Times readers to the pay meter, via website comments, were mixed and occasionally humorous Wednesday.

bearfan_4_decades
3:48 PM on December 6, 2011
Good luck on this one. I'm not paying, and neither will anyone else.

franks for everything
3:54 PM on December 6, 2011
speak for yoiurself - I'd gladly pay it... can't get everything for free.... well unless you're on welfare and section 8... but most people can't get everything for free

goingbust
5:07 PM on December 6, 2011
Well, it doesn't work for NY Times (just remove the part of the URL including and after "?hp"). It doesn't work for Rockford Register Star (just press Esc on your keyboard before the javascritp starts to run). It can't work on sites with "xx free pages and then..." because the counting algorithm has to be enforced by IP tracking, cookie tracking, or Javascript. It's easy to get around all of those. On the other hand, "0 free pages" with an enforced login can be made to work. But that doesn't seem to be the way you are going. It will fail.

joesmith23
5:20 PM on December 6, 2011
But where will the raving derelicts who type only in caps or ramble on and on about seemingly unrelated stories post now? Has anyone thought about their welfare??

Marietta Kafka Glass December 07, 2011 at 02:49 PM
I will just keep reading the Patch! Your coverage is better anyway!
Steve Burke December 07, 2011 at 03:52 PM
John Ryan is the only Star reporter that can validly be called a "journalist." I wouldn't pay for the crap that the sun-times organization considers news-- especially with the pop-up that come with every article. I bet that won't change, even though viewers will start paying for 99.9% fluff.
Dee Emm December 07, 2011 at 06:54 PM
Dead tree nedia becomes dead pixel media. Removinf both papers from my feed reader now.
ms. directed December 07, 2011 at 11:48 PM
Southtown's police blotter,1 of my only reasons for reading it online, is never timely anymore. Patch's is much better. And 22nd century media has old news, poorly written--or should i say rewritten, generally w/out attribution--from other publications. Go Patch!
Kathy Quilty December 08, 2011 at 02:31 AM
If they are charging for the paper are they still selling advertisements on line? If I have to pay for it, there shouldn't be any advertising. I pretty much know what the answer is so I guess I will not be reading the newspaper on line.
frank December 08, 2011 at 04:34 PM
If you looked up what a share of Suntimes stock is selling at, you would probably understand why they have initiated this process. The writing is on the wall. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Russ December 08, 2011 at 06:20 PM
Patch is a timely replacement for these other loser publications.Thanks Patch!

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