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Paying to Read The Tampa Bay Times Online

Sep 14, 2013

You can still view the "Tampa Bay Times" online for free. But only 15 pages per month.

Credit tampabay.com

To see more of the online version of the newspaper you now have to become a paid online subscriber.

In the business, that's called putting up a "paywall." And Tampa Bay Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash said that the decision to start charging for heavy use of tampabay.com was based on upgrades made to the website.

"We have substantially improved and upgraded tampabay.com through the year so that now we believe it's worth spending not just quite a bit of time but also spending a little bit of money with us," explained Tash.

To those who might find it hard to justify paying for what they have been getting for free, Tash said, "it's those people who have demonstrated the great value of what we do by coming to it most frequently who will be asked to support it financially and that seems entirely reasonable to me."

Tash took issue with the idea that people can go to free online competitors like tbo.com and baynews9.com and get the same information for free.

"You can't get what we offer anywhere else," said Tash. "I think our work is really distinctively strong so I would take issue with your assertion that you can get the kind of quality that you get at tampabay.com anywhere else."

Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's "Sense-Making Project" (The Tampa Bay Times is owned by the Poynter Institute) said that the tampabay.com paywall is a trend among most newspaper websites.

Asked whether this move will be a success for the Tampa Bay Times or a debacle, McBride said "it's going to be somewhere in between."

McBride explained, "there will be a lot of people griping and moaning. Over time some of those people will pay for that content. Some of them will go somewhere else."