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USA Today Publisher: Paper Not “Unique Enough” For Paywall

Despite paywalls popping up across other national newspapers and on smaller regional papers, including those owned by Gannett, Larry Kramer, the president and publisher of Gannett’s flagship USA Today, said today not to expect his paper to follow suit anytime soon. His explanation? The product isn’t “unique enough” at this point to charge for it.

The Wrap has some additional background on his comments and the conversation today during Business Insider’s Ignition conference, but here’s the gist from Fishbowl New York:

“I don’t want to charge [online] for USA Today right now, I don’t think it is the right thing to do, and there is so much national news out there,” Kramer said. “I think we would lose more than we would gain.”

Kramer also talked about efforts he has taken to change the business and culture of the Gannett paper since taking over as publisher in May.

“The best of our work had been in the newspaper, and I had to change the structure of the staff so they were producing for the digital platform first, and then the newspaper,” Kramer said.

It’s an interesting and refreshingly honest appraisal of the type of content its staff produces for the site, which had 262 million page views in May 2011, according to USAToday.com presskit (that number likely has grown in the past year and a half, though I don’t know how the recent redesign affected readership/page view counts). As Kramer said in his conversation, local news outlets take the advantage in this because they produce original news you can’t get elsewhere or no one else is covering.

YOUR TURN: Do you see a time when it could be viable for USA Today to charge for web access? What would it take to get you to pay?

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