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Washington Post will add paywall and new iPad app this summer

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90 percent of the Post's online readership is outside its print delivery area, with no web-only subscription available

Washington Post Cover
Washington Post Cover

The Washington Post will introduce a paywall this summer limiting free reading of its website to 20 articles or multimedia features per month. According to a report in (wait for it) The Washington Post, the new paywall will be coupled with an overhauled iPad app to attract print and digital subscribers.

"Our digital package is a valuable one, and we are going to ask our readers to pay for it and help support our news gathering as they have done for many years with the print edition," publisher Katherine Weymouth said in a statement to the Post.

"Our digital package is a valuable one, and we are going to ask our readers to pay for it"

The Washington Post Company has not determined what the cost of a digital or web-only subscription will be. According to the Post, 90 percent of the newspaper's online audience is outside the Washington, DC area. Currently the only available Washington Post digital subscriptions are for Kindle and Nook e-readers and the e-replica facsimile edition of the print newspaper. Despite its broad appeal, unlike the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, which have both instituted paywalls, the Post is not a national newspaper, with a much more limited delivery area. This limits the availability of a print subscription for most readers, making some kind of digital subscription a necessity.

In December, Washington Post Company CEO Donald Graham said, "we are obviously looking at paywalls of every type. But the reason we haven't adopted one yet is that we haven’t found one that actually adds to profits." If the paywall, more permissive than either the NYT or WSJ's, helps the Post capitalize on its national readership while still preserving traffic for online ads, that may change. But digital subscribers will have to see something, whether it's a slick iPad app or a redesigned, easier-to-navigate site, that's worth their money first.