Six small weekly newspapers are at the heart of an experiment which could transform the UK local press industry, it has emerged.
Yesterday, HTFP exclusively revealed that Johnston Press planned to introduce paywalls on a small number of weekly newspaper websites from next week.
The scoop was swiftly followed-up by all the other journalism websites and was the top story on MediaGuardian for most of yesterday.
Now JP has confirmed the names of the six paid-for titles involved in the ground-breaking trial, which will run for three months.
They are the Worksop Guardian in Nottinghamshire, the Ripley and Heanor News in Derbyshire, the Whitby Gazette in North Yorkshire, the Northumberland Gazette, the Ayrshire-based Carrick Gazette and the Southern Reporter in Selkirk.
Four of the six have average weekly circulations of under 10,000 and one, the Carrick Gazette, sells just 2,572 copies a week.
JP’s digital strategy director Lori Cunningham told HTFP: “It’s a small scale trial so we can better understand what the consumer dynamics are around paid-for content.”
She added that the company currently had “no plans” to extend the trial beyond three months or to roll it out to other titles.
However an internal company memo that has been seen by HTFP makes clear that the trial will be extended if it proves a success.
“The switch to a paid-for model is part of a broader roll-out across Johnston Press and in line with industry moves in this area to find a sustainable business model going forward. Customers are used to paying for content in-paper and we are simply transferring this thinking online.” it stated.
Fellow regional publisher Trinity Mirror has said it would not rule out introducing a paywall on its titles although it has no current plans to do so.
Digital director Chris Bunyan said: “Now is a time when a lot of publishers are experimenting and over the years we’ll see some failures and successes. We wouldn’t rule it out.”
biter (26/11/2009 11:03:22)
Off the top of my head, I’d pay to see local cricket scorecards like you used to get in the old days for free but nobody now can be bothered to do.
Paul (26/11/2009 11:05:56)
Hmm. Just clicked on one of the websites, the Carrick Gazette, and the top news item from yesterday referred to an incident on a bridge 8 days before, while the second was a three pars report on a car crash 11 days before. No pictures, no videos, no interaction anywhere on the site. I wouldn’t even visit it for free, never mind pay for it.
Tony Robertson (26/11/2009 12:12:22)
If this is known to be a trial, I think it will just mean that no one will pay for it – thus ensuring that it quickly becomes free again.
We probably need a bit more courage than this in order to get a better understanding of “consumer dynamics”.
Observer (26/11/2009 12:36:55)
All the trial will prove, if JP doesn’t invest in putting decent copy on the sites, is that no-one will pay for a poor product. it’s the reason newspaper sales are falling, and the reason why this will probably fail. I hope it doesn’t, but fear the worst.
And I wonder if we’ll find out if, as expected, it does crash (excuse the pun)?
Paul (26/11/2009 13:09:19)
“Paul (26/11/2009 11:05)
Hmm. Just clicked on one of the websites, the Carrick Gazette, and the top news item from yesterday referred to an incident on a bridge 8 days before, while the second was a three pars report on a car crash 11 days before. No pictures, no videos, no interaction anywhere on the site. I wouldn’t even visit it for free, never mind pay for it.”
Indeed. Nice web address too carricktoday.co.uk or not.
Renster (02/12/2009 09:45:26)
This could be the way forward for newspapers but only, I suspect, if all of them follow suit. Please comment on a blog I’ve written about this issue at http://isallpublicitygoodpublicity.blogspot.com/