This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The Salt Lake Tribune is launching a new online membership service Monday as part of an effort to reshape the newspaper's Web offerings and boost its digital revenues.
Users of The Tribune's website, sltrib.com, will be offered advertisement-free access to the site along with newsletters, invitations to special events with newsmakers, and Tribune staffers and other perks all for a fee of $9.99 a month.
The premium membership promises a cleaner, more responsive version of sltrib.com free of ads but with all The Tribune's news, sports, features and editorials.
Readers also can sign up for a sustaining membership and pay $4.99 a month for the event invitations, part of a series of newspaper-hosted gatherings dubbed "Trib Talk Live."
Editor and Publisher Terry Orme said the new memberships give loyal online readers a chance to support the paper's news operations and receive key benefits by officially joining its online community.
"You will support our reporting efforts. You will have a stake in Utah's independent voice just like our print subscribers do, and we will reward you for your commitment," Orme wrote in a June 28 column about the change.
Although Tribune online memberships will be strictly voluntary, Orme said, Web readers will be prompted to join periodically as they navigate sltrib.com.
Digital memberships are not linked to subscriptions to The Tribune's print editions. And readers who opt not to become members still will be able to access sltrib.com for free.
The Tribune's offer comes as legacy news outlets across the U.S. grapple with steady declines in print-advertising revenues, and as readers shift to getting news from the Web and mobile sources. The Utah daily's online audience continues to grow but yields a fraction of the revenues once generated by print.
One media business analyst said that membership models are seeing a revival at many U.S. newspapers, but he predicted modest results at best.
"It is not a game changer," said Rick Edmonds, who tracks the industry for the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based journalism school. "At best, it will be a helpful additional revenue stream, but it's not a make-or-break proposition."
Even Orme anticipates only "a small percentage" of online Tribune readers to become members. "However, even a small percentage of readers signing up will have a significant impact on our newsroom budget."
Though The Tribune first began publishing on the Web in late 1995, charges for its online content have been limited to archive access and email subscriptions to a digital replica of the print edition.
Orme said Tribune managers have ruled out charging for the paper's online news content, partly out of concern the move would reduce Web traffic. Newspapers elsewhere have put up such pay walls, only to take them down later when online audiences dropped off.
Raising revenue instead through memberships, Orme said, will have the added benefit of strengthening the paper's connections to readers with one-on-one contacts through "Trib Talk Live."
Both premium and sustaining members will get priority admission to those events.
In the past year, these gatherings, usually hosted by Tribune multimedia reporter Jennifer Napier-Pearce, have included an evening with columnist Robert Kirby, discussions on issues facing Mormon women, the debate over federal control of Utah's public lands and an examination of the Swallow-Shurtleff scandal.
Future offerings will feature more newsmakers, Tribune columnists, editors, reporters, sportswriters, photographers and members of the paper's editorial board, including cartoonist Pat Bagley.