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SF Chronicle erects paywall for 'premium' content

The move to offer readers "unrivaled content" separate from the free SFGate.com appears to be an attempt to woo readers back to good old-fashioned print.

Less than a week after The Washington Post announced its paywall plans, the San Francisco Chronicle followed suit by debuting SFChronicle.com, a site that aims to offer readers "premium" content beyond what they'll find on the Chronicle's SFGate.com site.

As more newspapers are scrambling for profits in the face of sagging print advertising revenue, many are looking to make up for the decline -- and the Chronicle is no exception. The newspaper is looking to drum up more cash by offering in-depth articles and columns for a monthly fee on a site that's separate from SFGate.com, which will remain free. According to a post on Saturday announcing SFChronicle.com:

Subscribers to the new website will find the newspaper's unrivaled content with brilliant photos, an uncluttered format and the familiar design of the Chronicle. Premium stories and columns will update and change with the news throughout the day.

In some ways, the move appears to be a bid to woo more readers to back to good old-fashioned print. The lowest-priced subscription for all-digital content costs $12 per month -- but readers can sign up to get the same online content, plus the Sunday edition of the newspaper delivered to their homes, for the exact same price. Digital access to SFChronicle.com plus Friday-Sunday delivery costs $3.60 per week, while access to the site in addition to Monday-Sunday delivery will set you back $5 per week.

The Boston Globe underwent a similar transition in 2011, breaking away into two separate entities: BostonGlobe.com, which offers premium content, and Boston.com, which continues to be free.

The question is how the move will affect SFGate content, which many San Francisco Bay Area readers have relied upon for local breaking news. The Chronicle is touting the premium site as offering content from its "most enduring legacy -- its columnists." Does that mean that SFGate will suffer from a lack of original content? It's unclear for now, though perhaps tellingly the articles that appeared over the weekend following the announcement appeared to lean heavily on Associated Press content.