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Papers Implement Paywall; iBerkshires Still Free

Tammy Daniels

Local newspapers operated by Denver-based MediaNews Group are going behind a paywall next week. The North Adams Transcript and two of the company's Vermont papers, the Bennington Banner and the Brattleboro Reformer, announced the new subscription service on Friday.

The regional flagship, The Berkshire Eagle, is apparently not involved in this round but will likely join the smaller papers if the experiment works.

Current subscribers of the newspapers will be offered a $19.99 year fee for online access; an online only subscription will cost $59.99 a year. You'll get five page views a month before the wall appears asking you to subscribe.

MediaNews Group has been looking at implementing paywalls for nearly two years, starting first in California and Pennsylvania last year. CEO Dean Singleton said in February that traffic at those papers has stayed steady but subscriptions haven't gone up.

The company is testing this newest paywall among many of its smaller titles, all at the same subscription rate.

What will continue to be "free" are the classifieds, obituaries and social announcements, all basically paid advertising sections. You'll also be able view headlines on the home pages.

MediaNews isn't alone in trying to find a way to make online news pay. The industry's been hammered by high overhead, declining circulation and an online landscape that's created a banquet of news sources for readers to browse.

Here at iBerkshires.com (which has absolutely no affiliation with the local newspaper group and which is locally owned and staffed), we will continue to provide news in as timely a manner as possible and we won't make you pay to read it. In fact, the iBerkshires family is growing with the addition of some truly hyperlocal sites like www.williamstown.com that we hope you will not only read but also contribute to.

The way we access information has changed dramatically in the past decade. iBerkshires is experimenting not with paywalls but with community forums that will allow readers to contribute content — an accident, an event, a neat photo. We're also working through our Facebook pages and Twitter feed to encourage readers to comment on and inform their neighbors on what's happening.

If you like what we're doing, then thank our advertisers by clicking on their ads and using their services. You'll be supporting local businesses, the local economy, and local news.

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