Chronicle forces readers to cough up cash for content

The San Francisco Chronicle is going the way of the New York Times and most recently, The Washington Post.

No, they’re not stepping up their journalism, opening bureaus around the world, or producing more multimedia.

On Saturday, the publication debuted SFChronicle.com, a website that features content and news stories from Chronicle writers that readers will have to flash their credit cards to access.

It also costs at least $12 a month.

According to the company, the new site features the newspaper’s “unrivaled content with brilliant photos” and gives paid subscribers unlimited access to its prized columns.

The base subscription starts with an “Ultimate Access” package that offers news across all digital platforms and apps. From there, readers can tack on Sunday or weekday delivery for little to no charge.

And all this for a little less than a medium cheese pizza at Seniore’s.

But many SFGate readers — at least the ones who commented on the announcement — seem offended at the suggestion of forking over $12 each month for the subscription’s cheapest plan.

The highest rated comment at the moment comes from user HighRollerRick, who simply asks:

“This is a joke, right?”

What’s unclear is how much Chronicle local news content — if any — will be conceded to web readers for free.

If this weekend’s debut is any indication, the answer may be zero. SFGate’s Bay Area and State news page includes no fresh staff-written content after last Friday, other than a single C.W. Nevius blog post Saturday afternoon.

The Chron had already been delaying web publication of much of its content to give a leg up to print and tablet subscribers.

But whether you’ll subscribe to the new Chronicle site or not, get used to hitting more paywalls.

According to a 2012 Alliance for Audited Media survey, 48-percent of newspapers have already implemented paywalls. Of those currently without, 44-percent plan to erect one in the next two years.

For its broke or indignant readers, SFGate remains free. The site will continue providing breaking news, local and national news, and other popular features like the Daily Dish and Day in Pictures.