The Washington Post announced today today that it's starting a partner program that will offer its digital content for free to "premium" subscribers of select local newspapers. Subscribers of any partnering paper will be able to select a rate that includes access to the Post's website and apps in addition to their local paper's content. The program will start in May and currently has six partners, including The Dallas Morning News and the Minneapolis Star TribuneCurrently a digital subscription to the Post is $9.99 per month for web only access or $14.99 for web and apps.

The obvious winners in this program are the smaller papers, which could see more subscribers attracted by discounted Post access. But this is also the Post's way of catching up, both in national and digital offerings. Historically the paper has concentrated its strengths in the Washington, D.C. area, even as The New York Times launched a national edition back in 1980. When newspapers started going digital, the Times was more of a household name across the country and the world, and now it seems the Post hopes that partnering with other publications will help change that.

This is the Post's way of catching up

It also makes sense considering the expertise of the Post's new owner, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. When convincing Bezos to purchase the paper, Post CEO Don Graham was adamant that Amazon's approach to digital delivery would be crucial to the future of the paper. While there has been speculation that Bezos could also help overhaul the way things are done at the paper by bringing more web developers into the newsroom and having reporters write shorter stories, it seems logical that he would first focus on how to the Post gets content into the hands of readers.

Update: A representative from The Washington Post let us know that access to the Post's digital content would be free for subscripers with a "premium" subscription, though it isn't clear exactly what a premium subscription entails.