The website for the Star-Ledger and over NJ Advance Media newspapers in New Jersey, has begun marking certain news stories as “Subscriber Exclusive.”
Kevin Whitmer, the senior vice president for content, expansion and development for NJ Advance Media, made the announcement on July 17 that NJ.com was ending free access to all news stories.
The move comes ten weeks after Whitmer began asking for voluntary contributions from Star-Ledger readers in a bid to increase subscribers. On June 24, readers will be required to log in to read those stories.
A NJ Advance Media employee, speaking on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation, told the New Jersey Globe that NJ.com will incrementally increase the number of news stories appearing behind a paywall over the coming months.
“The paywall was approved months ago, but Kevin made everyone go through the charade of asking for voluntary subscribers first,” the employee said. “This was definitely in the works before COVID-19.”
Whitmer says NJ.com has faced tough times.
“Despite a continued surge in readership — NJ.com had 20 million unique visitors last month, according to Google Analytics — the advertising environment remains challenging,” Whitmer said. “With so many of our advertisers and small business owners cautiously moving forward, we continue to see declines in the revenues that make our journalism possible.
The Star-Ledger has also begun adding new content to their reporting on pizza and bagels and have been assigning some reporters stories that profile their colleagues in what could be viewed as a bizarre type of journalistic Stockholm syndrome.
The NJ.com site is increasingly using reporters to write bylined stories on retail opportunities, like “Gap selling cloth face masks in family packs of 8 for $36.”
One Star-Ledger tradition, intense coverage of high school prom season, is a now a casualty of the coronavirus pandemic.