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— A redesigned Web site and new Internet address was unveiled Tuesday for five daily newspapers and 12 other publications owned by Northwest Arkansas Newspapers LLC.

The site, NWAonline. com, will be easier for readers to navigate than its predecessor, NWAnews.com, said Matthew Costa, online director for Northwest Arkansas Newspapers.

“Folks were having a hard time finding everything,” said Costa. “Plus, we’ve really grown.”

From 2002 until Nov. 1, NWAnews.com served as the Web site for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Northwest Arkansas edition, the Northwest Arkansas Times, the Benton County Daily Record, six weekly newspapers and the Siloam Springs Herald Leader, which is published twice weekly.

On Nov. 1, the merger of Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Inc. and Stephens Media LLC - forming Northwest Arkansas Newspapers - brought two more daily newspapers and five weeklies under the Web site umbrella.

With the merger, the company took most of the Web site’s content behind a “pay wall,” meaning readers had to subscribe to either the print or online edition to read some articles.

The Springdale Morning News and the Rogers Morning News were added toNWAnews.com with the merger, but online access to articles in the two editions of the Morning News remained free through November.

That changed Tuesday. A subscription is now required to read premium stories on NWAonline.com.

“We have all heard the old saying,‘There is no such thing as a free lunch,’” said Jeff Jeffus, president of Northwest Arkansas Newspapers. “More and more newspapers are realizing they can no longer spend millions of dollars investing in talented editorial staffs that collect hyper-local content for our readers to enjoy and give it away for free on the Internet, especially in today’s economy.”

NWAonline.com will contain local, state, regional, national and international news. All stories generated by the newspapers in Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers and Bentonville will be available on the site, as well as articles written for the 12-county region of Northwest Arkansas by reporters for the Democrat-Gazette.

There will no longer be individual Web sites for different papers owned by Northwest Arkansas Newspapers. Articles will be organized by topic, but online readers will also be able to flip through the pages of the print edition of the daily papers via a link at the top of the home page, similar to how the Democrat-Gazette presents its statewide edition at arkansasonline.com.

Online access to two weeklies - the Fayetteville Free Weekly and La Prensa Libre, a Spanish language paper - will remain free. Also, some articles, photographs and videos generated specifically for the Web site will be available without a subscription, as will Associated Press breaking news articles and blog content.

Readers who subscribe to the print edition of one of the company’s daily newspapers will have access to all articles on the Internet site for free. Readers who don’t subscribe to the print edition can subscribe to NWAonline.com for $5.95 per month.

The statewide edition of the Democrat-Gazette has been behind a pay wall since 2002. But NWAnews.com allowed people to read the Northwest Arkansas edition of the newspaper for free online. That back-door access to the Web site ended with the Nov. 1 merger.

Web-site access to the Herald Leader and 11 weekly papers owned by Northwest Arkansas Newspapers will be subscription only as of Jan. 1. The charge will be $2.99 per month for online subscribers who don’t pay for the print edition of the Herald Leader or one of the weekly newspapers. Readers who subscribe either in print or online to one weekly newspaper will have online access to all 11 plus the Herald Leader.

Other weeklies available on the site include The Weekly Vista of Bella Vista, Decatur Herald, Gentry Courier-Journal, Gravette News Herald, McDonald County Press in Missouri, The Rogers Hometown News, The Times of Northeast Benton County, the Washington County Enterprise Leader and the White River Valley News.

Readers can subscribe online by going to NWAonline.com/register or NWAnews.com/register.

Costa said business directories and special section sites will eventually be added to NWAonline.com.

Newspapers nationally have been suffering the worst recession for the advertising industry since World War II.

Advertising revenue for the statewide Democrat-Gazette dropped by 18.5 percent in the first nine months of 2009. Ad revenue at the paper was down 13.2 percent last year, but that was better than the national average of a 17.8 percent decline.

Nationally, online advertising accounts for 7 to 9 percent of newspaper ad revenue.

News, Pages 10 on 12/02/2009

Print Headline: New Web site launched for newspapers

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