BERLIN – Europe’s top-selling newspaper said Monday it will introduce a paywall for part of its online offerings starting next month.

Main news stories will remain free of charge online, but a subscription will be required to view features, interviews and other exclusive content, the German tabloid Bild said.

The basic digital subscription will cost 4.99 euros ($6.50) per month, and twice that for a premium version that includes the tabloid as an e-paper.

The Axel Springer AG-owned newspaper will also offer readers buying a print copy, at 70 euro cents a day, a pass to its online content. The pass will be unique to each paper.

The move comes as Europe’s newspaper publishers struggle to make up for lost advertisement revenue and shrinking circulation. Analysts say publishers across Europe will be watching whether Bild’s paywall will succeed, as many of them hope to follow the move of Europe’s biggest publishing house.

“It is a change of paradigm toward a culture of paying for journalistic content online,” said Donata Hopfen, managing director of Bild’s digital division.

Bild’s online offering is currently Germany’s No. 1 news website — a position it hopes to defend by hiding only some content behind the paywall. The company decided against a metered paywall — which limits users to a number of free articles per month, a model championed by The New York Times.

Instead, Bild will decide on a daily basis which articles or video products will be labeled as premium content that requires a so-called Bild plus subscription.

An additional service featuring video footage from soccer games — to which Axel Springer acquired the rights for Germany — will cost another 2.99 euros a month.

Bild’s move is the first significant attempt to make users in Europe’s biggest economy pay for reading their news online.

Axel Springer launched a test balloon earlier this year and put some content on the website of its daily Die Welt behind a paywall.

“We now sell more digital subscriptions than normal ones. That is encouraging,” said Doepfner.

Axel Springer also publishes, among others, Poland’s biggest tabloid, the conservative daily Fakt. Bild’s daily print circulation has been falling for the past few years and now stands at about 2.5 million, 200,000 more than Britain’s The Sun.

Rupert Murdoch’s British tabloid recently announced plans to implement a paywall, charging 2 pounds ($3) per week in return for access to the tabloid’s website and a package of Premier League soccer highlights.

An increasing number of U.S. newspapers also are starting to charge customers for online content; most recently The Washington Post announced the introduction of a digital subscription plan.


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