Yet daily newspapers have the advantage that their content was once purchased by readers in print form, while most digital-only outlets, such as the Huffington Post or Gawker media, have always been free. Their philosophical connection to the spirit of free online content may be an added obstacle, as could be the type of content online-only publications typically produce.
"They're going to have to produce something that you can't get anywhere else," he says. The opinion and commentary content that is the bread and butter of many online sites may not make that cut. Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish blog, which has made a name for itself offering just that, first for Time, then on The Atlantic and The Daily Beast, is transitioning to a stand-alone meter model to mixed success, but for now The Dish is seen as just a notable exception and not the rule.
Meanwhile, other online news organizations are seeking new revenue through so called "sponsored content" — content paid for and, in some cases, written by advertisers to mimic editorial content — but not without controversy.
If these trends continue however, the path for local, daily newspapers to financial stability may be clearer. "Sometimes we fall victim to standing around, waiting for conditions to be perfect," says Steve Wagenlander, director of audience development for The Post and Courier of Charleston, S.C.
The independent, locally owned paper switched to meter system operated by Press+ last May and Wagenlander says it is happy with the results thus far. "We are 11 months in and we are ahead of the curve," he says.
And as for other local newspapers that haven't adopted a subscription service, Wagenlander warns: "They're leaving money on the table when they're not doing something."
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Corrected on 4/9/2013: A previous version of this article misstated the name of Gannett's vice president of audience development and engagement. It is Maribel Perez-Wadsworth.