California Newspaper Tries Paid Web Content

The Sacramento Bee is the latest newspaper to try to boost revenue from premium content, while still offering ad-supported news at no charge.
The Sacramento Bee has launched a premium content site that offers political news and commentary geared toward a niche market, the latest example of a traditional newspaper trying a new business model on the Web.

The section dubbed "Capitol Alert" covers behind-the-scene stories in California government that would appeal to lobbyists, legislators and their staff, political consultants and academics; but would unlikely be of much interest to the general public, a spokesman said Wednesday. Subscribers will pay $499 a year.

Besides news not published in the newspaper, the site would offer exclusive commentary from Bee columnists, e-mail alerts for morning and afternoon recaps of breaking news, and electronic delivery of the next day's newspaper at 8 p.m. Pacific time, four hours before it's posted on the newspaper's free site. The new site also publishes a daily Capitol calendar, and has a specialized political news search engine.

Capitol Alert is a separate product from the newspaper, which will cover California politics as usual, the spokesman said. The only difference is "California Insider," by columnist Dan Weintraub would be exclusive to the site. Weintraub would be writing another column, called "Crossroads," for the newspaper.

The Sacramento Bee, which has a daily circulation of almost 300,000, is the latest newspaper to try to boost revenue from premium content, while still offering ad-supported news at no charge. The New York Times, for example, offers premium content. The Wall Street Journal charges an annual subscription for its stories and columns.

Newspapers have taken a financial beaten over the last few years, as advertisers spend an increasing amount of money on the Web, which offers better options to reach older teens and young adults who favor getting their news from the Internet.

Newspapers, however, are making progress on the Web. Fully, 39.3 million people in the United States visited newspaper Web sites last October, an 11 percent increase over the same month a year ago, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. More than 1-in-4 of the U.S. Internet population visited a newspaper Web site.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times is making a push to get in front of college students. The British business paper said on Wednesday that its has partnered with Villanova University to provide 3,400 liberal arts students with access to FT's Electronic Edition and the company's online subscription service. The content would be available through the university's internal network.