MSM|August 10, 2011| Author: Kim LaCapria|Tags:

‘Onion’ CTO Says Paywall Not Planned For US, Yet

The decision to introduce a paywall is a touchy one, and often associated with a massive loss of readership or traffic when considered- the New York Times is probably the most notable example of a news site transitioning to a limited paid subscription model in recent months, with mixed reaction and results.

The maneuver has to be pulled off delicately, and has a better guarantee of working when a site has a strong, steady captive audience- which is what made the NYT experiment interesting to watch. The latest site to announce a limited paywall based on the Times model is far less of a big name, and notably used to be free back in its print-only days.

Satirical news site The Onion may seem like a less likely candidate to consider charging users- particularly considering its high level popularity on social sites like Facebook- but visitors outside the US will be subject to a five article a month limit when the overseas paywall goes into effect. If you live outside the States and read The Onion regularly, it will cost you $2.95 per month, or $29.95 per year to keep reading.

Some of the initial reaction included the opinion that the site plans to eventually become paywall-protected for American readers as well, but the paper’s Chief Technology Officer Michael Greer spoke to Neiman Journalism lab, and says that’s not the strict intent going in:

“By ‘test,’ we sincerely mean it. We want to know how people respond and act,” he said. “We’re not rushing… I don’t think everybody can act this way, but it’s true. We think our content is very valuable and unique,” he said. “We have a great relationship with our fans, too, so they value us.”

US troops overseas- a big fan base for The Onion, Greer says- will be exempt from the paywall, as will A.V. Club members. And while fans of the satire site may be dedicated, it’s seems the site might have a bit more of a job selling a monthly entrance fee to users than the New York Times given its specific niche of content.

Would you pay for continued access to The Onion? Do you read it enough to make the cost worthwhile?