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Metered paywalls set for LA Times, Tribune dailies

[WASHINGTON] The parent of the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune unveiled plans Thursday for "metered paywalls" at its newspapers in an effort to boost revenues and connect with readers.

The strategy announced by Tribune Publishing would allow access to a limited number of articles for free and replace the "premium paywall" used at most of its dailies that locks off some content for paying subscribers.

Denise Warren, executive vice president for digital, told a conference call that early next year the group would "switch to a metered approach at all our properties." The group also includes the Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel and several niche publications.

"We have a sizeable opportunity to grow our digital subscriber base," she said.

Details were not disclosed for the metered system, which would be similar to one used by The New York Times and other newspapers.

The company, which was split off the Tribune Co conglomerate in a break from its television and other assets, reported a third quarter loss of US$3.4 million as revenues held steady at US$404 million.

The group has been struggling for direction since the split, amid speculation that it could sell off its prized Los Angeles daily or put the entire group up for sale.

The company, which earlier this year bought the San Diego Union-Tribune, confirmed Thursday it had offered a US$3 million loan to the parent of the Orange County Register newspaper which could be used in a bid for its assets.

Such a sale could give the group a strong if not dominant position in the southern California region.

The company also said its buyout programme aiming to cut the staff at its newspapers had achieved "internal targets" without elaborating.

Some reports said 15 per cent of the newsroom staff at the Los Angeles Times had taken buyout packages.