Torstar launches Toronto Star paywall

TORONTO – The Toronto Star has begun charging a fee for non-subscribers who access its web site more than 10 times a month.

The Star told staff details of the program on Monday and announced the change to readers in the Tuesday edition of its paper, the biggest-circulation daily in Canada.

“This marks a major transition for the Star that will help us provide, in print and online, the best and most comprehensive package of news and information in Canada,” Star publisher John Cruickshank wrote in a brief article in the paper.

The first month of digital access costs 99 cents, then $9.99 a month plus HST after that, but will be free for home subscribers who meet certain conditions.

Toronto-area residents who sign up for digital access can also get free home delivery on Saturday until Dec. 31.

Other Canadian media outlets have launched “metered” paywalls that allow readers to access a specific number of free articles each month before they’re asked to pay for further content.

Parent company Torstar Corp. (TSX:TS.B) has been testing the paywall at other newspapers it owns like the Hamilton Spectator and the Waterloo Region Record.

Last year, both the Globe and Mail and National Post owner Postmedia (TSX:PNC.B) began unrolling their own paywall structures.

On Monday, Torstar ended a short-lived venture into small business media coverage, with the closure of two paywalled websites it owned.

Staff at YourMississaugaBiz and YourHamiltonBiz were informed that both sites would cease operations effective immediately.

About 15 employees are affected by the decision, said Bob Hepburn, a spokesman for the media company.

“It’s a business decision based on the economic conditions,” he said in a phone interview.

The YourMississaugaBiz website launched last year while YourHamiltonBiz began operating in January. Both went behind a paywall earlier this year, and readers could subscribe to each website for about $30 per month.

Torstar holds an investment in The Canadian Press as part of a joint agreement with the parent companies of the Globe and Mail and Montreal La Presse.