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Las Vegas Sun Institutes A Paywall

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Newspapers around the nation have been in trouble for many years. As readership of print editions has declined – and along with it the advertising dollar – many newspapers have instituted paywalls for their online editions.

Readers pay a certain amount a month for a subscription and have unlimited access to the newspaper’s online content.

The Las Vegas Sun is the most recent Nevada newspaper to institute a paywall. The decision came about after the Sun stopped getting payments from the Joint Operating Agreement it has with its competitor,  The Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Ray Brewer is the assistant managing editor/digital and sports for the Las Vegas Sun. He said that under the agreement, which is known as a JOA, the Review-Journal would print the Sun and run its advertising department, and in return, it would pay a percentage of profits to the Sun.

However, Brewer said over the past two years the RJ has not been profitable and therefore can't pay the Sun. 

Brewer said the paywall was necessary and readers have to understand where the money is going.

“Our paywall is for our readers to support independent journalism," he said, "All of the money we get from the subscriptions will go to fund our newsroom."

Emily Goligoski is the research director for the Membership Puzzle Project at New York University. She said that approach is what she likes about the Sun's new paywall.

She said explaining why they're creating the subscription service and how much journalism costs is important.

However, Goligoski said media outlets need to give readers a reason to pay. With so many options for getting news content, standing out is vital.

“It really behooves news sites to prove their value by having coverage that can’t be found anywhere else,” she said.

The New York Times has a paywall, but it is an international newspaper with broad support, Goligoski said. She is worried that a more niche newspaper like the Sun won't be able to draw the kind of subscriptions needed.

“I worry that organizations think of paywalls as this holy grail when frankly we’re yet to see enough examples of them really being beneficial in financial practice,” she said.

Barry Smith is the executive director of the Nevada Press Association. He supports the Sun's efforts because the paper's goal is to keep its newsroom open.

"I support it if it's going to keep their journalists working and employed," he said.

Smith doesn't like to call it a 'paywall' instead he prefers to think of it as a membership. 

With the Sun's model, the highest subscription tier is called a premium membership and it comes with a number of perks, including a yearly meeting with some members of the newsroom and delivery of the Las Vegas Weekly magazine, which is also published by Greenspun Media Group.

Ray Brewer, Assistant Managing Editor/Digital and Sports, Las Vegas Sun; Emily Goligoski, Research Director, Membership Puzzle Project, New York University; Barry Smith, Executive Director, Nevada Press Association

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Since June 2015, Fred has been a producer at KNPR's State of Nevada.