Starting at the rate of $3 per month for the first three months, the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press will add a paywall for some digital content. Free Press editor Peter Bhatia joins CultureShift on 101.9 WDET to talk what it means for local readers.

The major dailies in Detroit will start putting some of their content behind a digital paywall starting on Wednesday, August 12th.

The Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News announced the move last week. The two papers are editorially independent of one another but share business operations.

Listen: Detroit Free Press’ top editor Peter Bhatia explains the new paywall starting on Wednesday


“This has been under discussion for a long time,” says Peter Bhatia, editor and vice president of the Free Press since 2017. “More than three-quarters of the papers in the U.S. have paywalls and we haven’t had one in Detroit.”

Cameron Pollack, Detroit Free Press
Cameron Pollack, Detroit Free Press

At both papers, the digital subscription rate will start at $3 per month for the first three months. Bhatia says that about 10% of the Free Press’ content could end up behind the paywall including enterprise reporting and investigations unique to the paper.

The need for a paywall is “related to the shifting nature of revenue with our business.” — Peter Bhatia, editor of the Detroit Free Press

Bhatia points to a lack of advertising revenue as one of the reasons why a digital paywall is being added to both papers. 

The lack of ads isn’t a problem unique to the city’s major dailies. In 2018, the total estimated advertising revenue for the newspaper industry was $14.3 billion, according to Pew Research Center. A decade earlier in 2008, it was estimated at $37.8 billion.

“It’s related to the shifting nature of revenue with our business,” says Bhatia. “Advertising revenue is less a part of our business plan going forward; subscriber revenue is more of it.

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Author

  • Ryan Patrick Hooper is the award-winning host and producer of CultureShift on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. As a longtime arts and culture reporter and photographer, Hooper has covered stories for NPR, Detroit Free Press, Hour Detroit, SPIN and Paste magazine.