bitcoin

Pay for Chicago Sun-Times articles with bitcoins or tweets

Jan. 15, 2014 at 11:33 AM ET

Old-media giant The Chicago Sun-Times is experimenting with two uber-modern methods of payment: bitcoin and Twitter.

The so-called "social paywall" test, which the newspaper announced Tuesday, will run for 24 hours on February 1. Sun-Times readers will be asked to pay for articles by either donating to or tweeting about the Taproot Foundation, a nonprofit that connects professionals with pro bono work at other nonprofit firms.

If readers choose to donate to the Taproot Foundation during the one-day test, they will be prompted to do so in bitcoin, the digital-only currency that exploded in popularity last year.

The experiment is part of the Sun-Times’ ongoing effort to “test new technologies that we believe engage our readers,” Jim Kirk, the Sun-Times’ publisher and editor, said in a press release Tuesday.

The Sun-Times is the "first major USA newspaper to test a Bitcoin-based paywall," Kirk added.

The test will be done in partnership with BitWall, a startup that offers publishers three types of paywalls: paid, tweet-for-access and ad-supported. BitWall CEO Nic Meliones told NBCNews that the partnership has been in the works since December.

“This partnership is also the first to have all bitcoin payments and tweets to go in support of a non-profit,” Meliones added via email.

The Sun-Times, which is the ninth largest U.S. newspaper, already has a more standard paywall in place. In 2011 the newspaper introduced a “metered” paywall that lets users read a few articles for free each month before they must pay for access. Other newspapers including the New York Times have enacted similar systems in recent years.

Meanwhile bitcoin, once relegated to being accepted only by shadowy online-only merchants, is slowly making its way into mainstream retailers. Earlier this month, FarmVille maker Zynga said it will test accepting bitcoin for in-game purchases in some of its titles. In December, Overstock became the first major U.S. retailer to accept bitcoin.

Julianne Pepitone is a senior technology writer for NBC News Digital. Previously she worked at CNNMoney where she was a staff writer covering large tech companies including Apple and Google, as well as the intersection of tech and media. Follow Julianne on Twitter at @julpepitone or email her at julianne.pepitone@nbcuni.com.

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