Beginning today all current Blade subscribers will become All Access members with continued free unlimited access to news and features on all of the newspaper's Web sites including toledoblade.com, on smartphones and tablets, and on an all-new and enhanced eBlade at eBlade.toledoblade.com.
For nonsubscribers, The Blade is establishing a fee to access content on its digital platforms, with nonsubscribers allowed to to read up to 20 articles a month at no charge.
For nonsubscribers who reach the 20-story monthly limit on toledoblade.com, a digital subscription will cost $5.99 for the first six months and $5.99 each month after that.
"We have taken this step to strengthen our relationship with our home delivery customers and add value to their subscriptions," according to a statement from The Blade's circulation department. "This will help us continue to fund award-winning journalism and provide resources for new digital and print products."
A digital-plus subscription, which includes home delivery of the Sunday paper, will cost $4.99 for the first six months and $4.99 a month thereafter.
The Blade’s app for mobile devices will remain free.
The shift to establishing a fee for content is being called All Access Membership, said John Crisp, vice president of new media for The Blade.
“Basically, you can do a digital-only access on a monthly basis or a digital plus for the Sunday edition,” he said.
The digital-plus subscription will cost less than the digital-only fee because The Blade would like subscribers to have access to the Sunday print edition, Mr. Crisp said.
The Blade’s fee for digital content is not unusual, and other newspapers routinely charge for such access, he said.
Joe Grimm, the visiting editor in residence at Michigan State University's School of Journalism, said paying for digital content is becoming more commonplace throughout the newspaper industry. Mr. Grimm said some newspapers are making a small profit by charging for their Web sites.
"The challenge, of course, is having unique content that people want," he said. "It’s got to be good content that people want and not just generic, or the easy to report stuff."
“My opinion is we provide a valuable service to the community,” Mr. Crisp said. “That content always should have had some limitation of access.”
Joseph H. Zerbey, IV, president and general manager of The Blade, said the lifeblood of any newspaper is its content. Charging a fee to access it will help The Blade persevere in the digital age, he said.
“Newspapers really messed up when they started giving their content away for free,” Mr. Zerbey said.
People who already receive The Blade will be able to register online for unlimited free digital access, Mr. Crisp said. After viewing 20 articles, they will be asked to enter their name and phone number and will have their subscriber information emailed to them.
Readers also can register for digital access at www.toledoblade.com.
Customers who have questions, or who don't wish to register online, can email The Blade’s circulation department at firstname.lastname@example.org to subscribe to the print or digital products.
“It ensures we are a viable entity into the future,” Mr. Crisp said.