A regional publishing boss has declared his intention to introduce online paywalls on his newspapers’ websites insisting: “The reader must pay.”
He told industry leaders that newspapers could not continue giving content away online for free, and that although he had not decided when a paywall would be introduced at his titles, he was “fairly certain” it would happen.
The conference, sponsored by HoldtheFrontPage and Marriott Hotels, also saw Local World boss Steve Auckland and Trinity Mirror digital chief David Higgerson set out their own visions of the online future.
Robin told the conference: “For some time I have thought that we can’t continue giving our content away. The reader must pay.”
He listed charging subscribers as a key component of his future vision for the industry alongside lower overheads, using content from a variety of sources, and quality journalism.
Robin said he has not decided when to put up a pay wall at his titles, but added: “I am fairly certain it’s going to come.”
In answer to a question from Derby Telegraph editor Neil White, he said he accepted it would lead to a falloff in digital audiences, but argued that advertisers would be prepared to pay a higher yield for “better” subscribers.
Robin’s intervention demonstrates a shifting mood about online paywalls since the Daily Telegraph announced it was introducing one earlier this year.
The last major experiment with paywalls in the regional press was carried out by Johnston Press in 2010 and showed few subscribers willing pay for content.
However since then the concept has gained traction with The Times, the FT and now the Telegraph all introducing different versions of the subscription model.
A recent report by analysts Simon Kucher and Partners predicted an end to the internet free for all, with 90pc of online content set to be behind paywalls within three years.
Neither Local World chief executive Steve nor Trinity Mirror digital publishing director David referred directly to paywalls in their presentations to the conference, although both made clear that digital was central to their plans.
Steve said Local World would be a “24/7 media business” with “unbeatable local online content” allied to a “continued love of print.”
David said that content at Trinity Mirror titles was now being proactively released throughout the day to meet spikes in the online audience.
He said: “Holding content offline doesn’t sell more papers, it just makes people look elsewhere. If there is one phrase that should be banned it’s the phrase “for full story, see tomorrow’s paper,” he said.