Almanac website launches 'pay meter'

After reading 25 stories each month, readers will have option of subscribing or making micro-payments

Frequent visitors to The Almanac's website will soon need to either become subscribing members to obtain full access to unlimited online content or purchase individual stories as they read them.

The new "pay meter" system is similar to what many other media websites, including the New York Times, have instituted over the last few years in order to increase revenue from readers and reduce their reliance on advertising.

The pay-per-story "micropayment" option is a new but growing phenomenon in the media world, as publishers try to offer payment alternatives to subscriptions. visitors who are already subscribing members to the printed Almanac through the Support Local Journalism program will have full access to all of without additional payment, but they will need to create a user account and log in.

"Unlike most newspapers, which have cut back on the breadth of their local news coverage, we have worked hard to maintain the level of professional reporting desired by our steadily growing print and online readership," said Bill Johnson, president of Embarcadero Media, which publishes The Almanac and its website, along with the Palo Alto Weekly and Palo Alto Online.

"But as local retailers feel the squeeze of online sellers and big box stores, the growth in revenue we need in order to meet our expenses and to expand our coverage of the community needs to come from those who directly benefit from it – our loyal readers," Johnson said. "Many of our most avid online readers have not yet become subscribing members and many don't even realize it. That's the group we need to convert into regularly paying members."

Visitors to will be able to view 25 stories per month before being required to pay, although this number will be adjusted downward over time. Not all content counts toward the limit; views of the event calendar, obituaries and Fogster classifieds are all exempt. Return visits to a story already viewed also do not count, so a reader can make and follow comments in Town Square without using up his or her monthly quota of free stories.

Readers will be able to choose between a 7-day pass for $2, a month pass for $6 or an annual subscription/membership for $60 (which includes delivery of The Almanac to those living in Menlo Park, Portola Valley, Woodside and Atherton). An auto-pay plan for $5 per month is also available.

Those who become subscribing members on will also have unlimited free access to Embarcadero Media's other websites, including Palo Alto Online and Mountain View Online.

Only subscribing members will be able to access stories that are more than three months old from the online archives of The Almanac, although individual stories may be purchased for 25 cents.

The pay meter system is now in operation, but frequent visitors will not encounter it for several days or weeks, depending on the number of stories they typically view each day. An opportunity to subscribe will appear after 15 stories have been viewed and then a counter is displayed that shows the cumulative number of stories read.

The Almanac's website today attracts more than 50,000 unique visitors each month, most of them from the immediate local area.

While pay metering systems are in widespread use on websites operated by daily newspapers, the Embarcadero Media websites are the first known websites of weekly newspapers in the United States to implement such a system.

Embarcadero Media's pay metering system is being implemented through San Francisco-based CoinTent, a micropayment and subscription paywall service.

Readers with questions or having difficulty with setting up accounts should email or read the frequently asked questions page.

- Almanac staff

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9 people like this
Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 18, 2016 at 11:23 am

I might pay if Embarcadero did 2 things

1) Not show ads to paying customers

of course I ask my self, why pay to subsidize the print version, when I can pick this up for free if I really to get some MP news I can't get elsewhere.

24 people like this
Posted by interested
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 18, 2016 at 12:31 pm

I know it can be frustrating to have to pay for something that heretofore has been provided for free, but given the financial pressures on print journalism and the cost of putting out quality content, I for one will be happy to pay for an online subscription. How else can we as a community continue to get coverage of relevant news that affects us if publishers can't afford to pay staff, etc.

As part of the bargain, the Almanac should strive to provide the best possible content, which would include impartial and in-depth coverage of all matters of interest to our community and employing quality journalists and editors. Our community deserves a well-run and well-funded local paper to cover its fast-paced growth and keep its citizens informed.

13 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 18, 2016 at 12:37 pm

Why not just tell all of the local property industry who advertise that the click-through rate and eyes-on-pages is going to halve overnight.

16 people like this
Posted by Not surprised
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Feb 18, 2016 at 12:56 pm

The final nail in the coffin we call the Almanac. Editorials appear rarely, letters are non existent. Since Gibboney retired this thing, we call a newspaper has faded from relevance. Good luck, Johnson. Your energy is in the Palo Alto weekly and you want to force the Amanac into closing. This step ought to take care of it.

Look at the Post for a business model that works. Shut down the online version. Force people to write a letter. Pay your bills with real estate ads. Hire journalists who know how to ask the follow up question. Attend public meetings. Talk to those who attend public meetings. Not just the P.R. Staff at city hall.

Such a shame to watch this paper slowly die.

2 people like this
Posted by Gern
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 18, 2016 at 1:57 pm

Looks like the CoinTent tracking solution is implemented with simple browser cookies, which are easily removed if someone wishes to bypass the "pay meter" and continue free access to Almanac online content. I'm not suggesting anyone should do such a thing and I've long considered becoming a subscriber myself, as I appreciate and find value in the Almanac's local news and and events focus.


8 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 18, 2016 at 2:36 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The great advantage of this approach is that people will pay for quality reporting and if there is no quality reporting then they won't pay.

Under the current free model there is no way for the consumer to place value on quality reporting.

And since it is difficult, but not impossible, for people to pay anonymously so a pay system may well also improve the quality of the Forum postings.

2 people like this
Posted by Dagwood
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 21, 2016 at 9:54 am

Dagwood is a registered user.

I agree it is time to take a hard look at the Almanac coverage -- scope and depth. The city is not doing well by the Almanac in that there's a good deal more going on in terms of development, relationships with neighboring cities, governance issues, FB as a major tech player in our city and the world, neighborhood quality of life, Stanford, valley business related to MP and so on --- all covered either superficially or barely at all. It may be time to look at consolidating the Almanac with the PA Weekly and Mt View Voice with more of a regional perspective but enough resolution to cover the individual city differences. There's a huge amount to gain from that in terms of establishing a joint forum for dealing with regional issues such as traffic, housing, Caltrain, schools and much else hitting Silicon Valley these days. Needless to say, MP could be learning a lot more from what its neighbors are doing than is communicated through the Almanac. Let the paywall be a first step toward thinking in these terms.

Like this comment
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 22, 2016 at 11:19 am

Concerned is a registered user.

How will the pay meter work? Is it 25 clicks per month per person or per IP address? For example, if there are 30 employees at a school, and there is an article about the school in your paper, will the 26th person have to pay to see it?

2 people like this
Posted by Renee Batti
associate editor of The Almanac
on Feb 22, 2016 at 12:39 pm

Renee Batti is a registered user.

Concerned, the answers to your questions can be found on our FAQ page:

Web Link

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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