Washington Post Lifts Paywall for Other Papers' Subscribers as Bezos Seeks Readers

Could It Expand to Include Subscribers to Amazon Prime?

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The Washington Post, seeking to expand its subscriber base under new owner Jeff Bezos, is giving readers of a half-dozen other newspapers full access to its website and mobile applications.

The pilot program lets paying subscribers of papers such as the Dallas Morning News access the Post's stories as well, the publisher said today. The Post can then benefit from the extra online traffic, according to Steve Hills, the newspaper's president and general manager. A digital subscription to the Post costs $99 for a year, or $9.99 every four weeks.

Adding readers is crucial to the Post, which has had a steadily shrinking audience along with the advertising declines that have affected the entire industry. The newspaper's average weekday circulation of 431,521 last year was a 41% decline from 2003, according to the Alliance for Audited Media. Mr. Bezos, the founder of Amazon, paid $250 million for the newspaper in October, ending eight decades of family ownership under the Grahams.

The Post won't get any money directly from the subscription partnership. The publisher "wanted to make it easy for its partners," as well as create an efficient way to add more readers, Mr. Hills said in an interview. The combined circulation of the six papers is about 1.5 million, he said.

The Post can open up the program to other providers of high-end digital subscriptions, including Amazon Prime, which gives members free two-day shipping and access to a library of movie and TV content online. The price of Prime is increasing to $99 a year from $79, Amazon said last week.

"We're open to conversations with a broad range of people, and that would include Amazon," Mr. Hills said.

In addition to the Dallas paper, the Post's subscription program also initially includes the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Ohio's Toledo Blade.

~ Bloomberg News ~

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