Chicago Sun-Times first major US paper to accept bitcoins

Backed by Coinbase, the move is part of a digital-first strategy

The Chicago Sun-Times is now accepting bitcoins as payment for subscription, becoming the first major U.S. newspaper to take the digital currency.

The paper's goal is to keep evolving with changing technology, and accepting bitcoin payments is one way it is trying to stay digitally focused, Editor-in-Chief Jim Kirk said in a release.

The Sun-Times has a "digital-first" strategy that led it to experiment with a bitcoin paywall for a one-day period in February.

It had partnered with San Francisco-based micropayments startup Bitwall so readers could donate bitcoin or tweets on Twitter to benefit an organization called the Taproot Foundation, which pairs professionals with nonprofit groups for pro bono work.

"We were encouraged by our paywall experiment in February," Kirk said in an interview over Twitter. "We believe there is an opportunity here to expand our readership with Bitcoin."

The Chicago Sun-Times claims 6 million unique monthly online readers. It was the eighth-largest U.S. newspaper by total average circulation in March 2013, according to the Alliance for Audited Media, an advertising and content provider industry group.

For its print and digital subscriptions, the newspaper is working with Coinbase, a bitcoin wallet service also based in San Francisco. In a blog post, Coinbase said that content providers such as the Sun-Times are one of the early leaders in getting merchants to adopt the cryptocurrency.

In January, Bitcoin-related news sites reported that Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad was planning to accept bitcoin as a payment method for individual articles. A Reddit poster, claiming to be a webmaster for the paper, said the new payment method was being implemented step by step.

Although Bitcoin has been overshadowed by allegations of fraud and hacker attacks such as in the collapse of Japan-based bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, content providers and bloggers are turning to the digital currency in part because it's a cheaper means of moving payments around, with transaction fees which can be lower than 1 percent.

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Tim Hornyak

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