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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Chron Paywall Pitch: $1.50 Gets You Free SF Weekly Story

Posted By on Tue, May 25, 2010 at 1:25 PM

click to enlarge Apparently SF Weekly is the only place where jailed alleged con man and murderer Kaushal Niroula is free
  • Apparently SF Weekly is the only place where jailed alleged con man and murderer Kaushal Niroula is free
The San Francisco Chronicle has joined the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times in erecting partial paywalls around stories, requiring readers in some instances to pay to read individual articles online.

The Journal has long required readers to shell out for most stories, particularly ones of interest to financial professionals. The Times has announced plans to charge its most assiduous online readers, allowing people to read a set number or articles before demanding payment.

The Chron, however, has come up with a truly improbable scheme: Demanding $1.50 of readers wishing to peruse a story about alleged murderous con man Kaushal Niroula -- a story that was essentially a retread of an SF Weekly article published 13 months ago.

click to enlarge In the Chronicle's vision of the online future, readers will pay $1.50 for stories already available free elsewhere
  • In the Chronicle's vision of the online future, readers will pay $1.50 for stories already available free elsewhere
The Chronicle ran a front-page print story Sunday rehashing SF Weekly's April 2009 feature "The Dark Prince," which described how Nepalese immigrant Kaushal Niroula assembled a crew of gay, alleged serial grifters who face trial in the murder of a wealthy Palm Springs man. The story added a few details that have come out in court since our article ran, but essentially tracked the same Niroula life arc of coming to America, attending New College of California, and hatching a bevy of confidence schemes before being nabbed on charges that he and a group of accomplices conspired to murder Palm Springs art collector Clifford Lambert.

The biggest difference between the Chronicle and SF Weekly stories seems to have been that the Chronicle brazenly asked readers wishing to read their Sunday so-called  "exclusive" online before Tuesday to kick down $1.50 for a single "e-edition" of the Sunday paper. Whereas SF Weekly's story had already been available online for free since April 2009. Following the two-day embargo, the story was posted on the Chronicle's free website, SFGate.com.

We've asked the Chronicle's director of consumer marketing Michael Keith for information about how well the paywall strategy worked, and will post his response when we receive it.

Update: Keith called us to say he doesn't have any information about how well the paywall strategy has performed, but did say it's been in place since December or January, and it's been tested every Sunday to date.

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Matt Smith

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