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Southern Maryland Newspapers will implement a paywall for its website beginning June 17, requiring readers to subscribe to one of its three community newspapers in order to view all of that publication’s articles online.

Visitors to www.SoMdNews.com will be able to view three articles per month before being prompted to subscribe in order to see more online content. Articles that appear under the “Breaking News” header will not be covered by the paywall, and will remain accessible for free.

“In order to provide good, quality community journalism, you have to be able to pay for it. I think that the successful business model for the future for newspapers is a paid-content model,” Publisher Karen Acton said. “You can’t get all of your revenue from advertising from businesses. You have to be able to get it from the readers who are enjoying the content. So, we believe it’s a modest amount of money to ask readers to contribute.”

Current subscribers to the Maryland Independent, The Enterprise and The Calvert Recorder will be able to view their paper’s online content after registering at the website, but they will not have free access to articles from the other two papers without an accompanying subscription.

“Our subscribers will be able to view it along with the print subscription that they already have, but others that are coming to our website, we need them to share in that cost so that we can continue to provide good, quality journalism for our communities,” Acton said.

The company believes the increased revenue from the paywall “will actually allow us to provide additional content that right now we can’t do, that we don’t have enough resources to do,” she said.

A longtime proponent of charging for online content, Acton said that the company has “been working on this for quite a while.”

With an increasing number of newspapers moving to institute online paywalls, “right now seems to be the right time for our company to launch,” she added.

Online visitors will be able to view any paid advertisements, classified and legal notices without a subscription, said Steve Headley, director of classified advertising. However, the paywall will apply to obituaries, he said.

Acton said that the paywall will allow the company to tailor coverage to its readers, and also provide advertisers with information on the readership’s demographics and interests.

“Fortunately, community newspapers like we are have a very strong business model, and they provide something for our communities that they can’t get anywhere else, so I feel fortunate to be in that business, and I think it’s a very vital business,” she said. “I think that our readers and our communities depend on us to give them the news that they aren’t able to get anywhere else.”

Those without a newspaper subscription may sign up for one at a 10 percent discount if they do so at www.SoMdNews.com. Those who sign up online for a $39.95 annual subscription to the Maryland Independent or The Enterprise will receive a $15 gas card, and those who pay for a $25.95 annual subscription to The Calvert Recorder will get a $10 gas card.

New subscribers will have the option to opt out of receiving a delivered paper each Wednesday and Friday.

jnewman@somdnews.com