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Want full access to Union-Tribune online? There's now a fee for that

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - U-T San Diego Thursday became the latest major daily newspaper to charge for full access to its online content, but its front page and select digital services will remain free.

Subscribers to the print edition who have had home-delivery for at least one year will not be charged for full website access, according to the newspaper.

More and more newspapers nationwide have put online content behind a "pay wall," in part because online advertising across the industry is failing to replace the decline of ad revenue in print editions. U-T San Diego did not discuss its advertising revenues in its announcement, which was made on utsandiego.com.

The newspaper is offering digital subscriptions and bundles that include its print edition. Web surfers who do not have a subscription will be allowed to view 15 pages of articles for free each month before being prompted to sign up for an online account.

U-T San Diego will charge 99 cents per week for the first month of the digital subscription. From then on, the cost will be $3.49 per week.

Those who sign up will be given access to utsandiego.com, the U-T San Diego iPad news application, the electronic version of its print product and the eEdition iPad app.

"As we build the media company of the future, with a larger focus on digital platforms, we need to develop new revenue streams from a subscription standpoint," said Mike Hodges, president and chief executive officer of U-T San Diego. "We believe the content we provide from our great journalists is something people are willing to pay for."

U-T TV, DiscoverSD.com, the U-T Padres iPad app and U-T eBooks will remain free. Also available for no cost will be the utsandiego.com home page, index pages, classified sections, photo galleries and video content.

Similar moves have been undertaken by other major dailies across the country. The New York Times last year implemented a metered digital subscription program, which has reportedly resulted in nearly 400,000 people signing up without a decrease in web traffic.

The Los Angeles Times followed suit earlier this year with a formula close to what U-T San Diego will be following.

The race to charge readers is fueled, in part, by an inability of newspaper publishers to replace diminished print advertising with online ads.

A recent study of 330 daily newspapers by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism found that for every $7 decline in print advertising revenue, only $1 was made up in digital ads.

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