DocumentCloud to start charging journalists, newsrooms for unlimited document uploads

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For the last several years, journalists and newsrooms have enjoyed unlimited use of the online document repository DocumentCloud without ever having to pay a cent to the service.

That free ride will soon come to an end.

On Monday, the website DocumentCloud announced it would merge with MuckRock, a non-profit organization that builds investigative and news-gathering tools for journalists. Buried in the announcement was a mention that power users of DocumentCloud would soon have to pay if they wanted unlimited access to the company’s suite of services.

“From the day we launched DocumentCloud in 2009 we said we would begin charging at some point,” the website said. “There will be a limited free account available. That won’t change as a result of the merger. But for users who need to upload more than a few documents per month, and/or need access to advanced features or our API, we will be asking for support.”

DocumentCloud’s strong suite of features, including document annotation and online collaboration tools, have made it a must-have for journalists who regularly obtain and publish original source material. Major newsrooms have signed up for and used DocumentCloud for free over the last several years, including reporters at the New York Times, ProPublica, the Guardian, Ars Technica and elsewhere.

An executive at the newly-combined company said DocumentCloud was still exploring what features would be moved into a premium tier and how much to charge for it, adding that it wanted to weigh the financial needs of the company with the possibility that some smaller news outlets may not be able to pay for the service.