ODT editor Barry Stewart said an online subscription would be introduced by the end of this month.
Breaking news, national and world stories will remain free, but some of the exclusive stories produced by ODT journalists will be only available to subscribers.
Print subscribers will not have to pay any extra and can gain unlimited access to stories on ODT.co.nz by registering at https://my.odt.co.nz from today.
"This is securing the future of local journalism.
"Our newsrooms across the South work tirelessly every day to keep you informed, and we play a crucial role in keeping local institutions and politicians honest.
"But making sure our newsrooms are fully stocked with journalists and photographers comes at a cost, which simply is not covered by online advertising alone."
Expecting online readers to pay a subscription was inevitable for the business, and planning for the online-subscriber model had been under way for quite a while at Allied Press, the publisher of the ODT, he said.
The change in the media landscape with the introduction of a variety of sources of news meant the ODT had lately been much more proactive in putting stories online and had established a significant online readership with a well-regarded news site.
"We are the ‘go to’ site for news in the South.
"And we’re just going to build on that," he said.
Allied Press chief executive Grant McKenzie said the company employed journalists and photographers across 12 newsrooms from Kaikoura to Invercargill.
And while the ODT was New Zealand’s first daily newspaper — and the company remained very proud of that — it was also intent on moving forward.
Creating an online presence where subscribed readers got full access to the ODT online was an important move for the company, but importantly, the ODT was not the first to make the move.
Especially overseas, many other news websites already expected readers to pay for content, Mr McKenzie said.
He was not worried about losing readers, he said.
He did expect odt.co.nz’s 2.5 million page views per week to dip in the short-term as people got used to paying for content, but the online subscriber model was a long-term move.
"We’ve got [readership] targets we want to hit, but this is about a changing marketplace, and making sure that we’re being fair to both our print subscribers and online subscribers," he said.
"What I would say is opinion is cheap and news is expensive, and we produce a lot of news.
"We’ve got a fabulous team of reporters across the business who are delivering unique content every day."
Mr Stewart said the ODT for years had taken pride in its newsprint product and the company had embraced a "print first" mentality.
Now its approach was "subscriber first".
"We are still protecting those that are supporting us," he said.
"Our support over 160 years has been magnificent and we believe the ODT as a newspaper, or a news organisation, has earned that trust.
"We’re centrally placed in our community and we reflect that.
"That’s what drives us."