South Korean news outlets chase digital dream

When The New York Times was looking to relocate some of its operations out of Hong Kong earlier this year, the U.S. media heavyweight chose Seoul, citing among other reasons the freedom of South Korea’s press. But while the NYT comes seeking a free and open market, local newspapers are also hoping to get something out of next year’s move: insight into how media outlets can go digital without going broke. With the vast majority of the population getting their news for free from aggregator sites South Korea’s biggest newspapers have long struggled to monetize online content.

In 2013, the Chosun Ilbo launched a premium online service that included not only news stories but also columns by outside experts, celebrities and other public figures. The lineup of writers included many big names, such as travel writer Han Bi-ya, comedian Park Kyung-lim and former prime minister Chung Un-chan. The reception was not bad, with 50,000 readers registering for the service. The Chosun initially planned to set up a paywall for the service with subscriptions priced at 3,000 won ($2.50) per month.

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