A regional publisher is claiming success for a metered paywall experiment saying the number of paying subscribers is now exceeding those for its printed newspapers.
Newsquest’s Herald and Times Group introduced the paywall for its HeraldScotland website in December 2011 when the site was relaunched.
The site now has thousands of people paying to read its online articles and the group claims this exceeds the combined total subscriptions for the printed Herald and Sunday Herald.
The Herald and Times has declined to give an overall figure for the number of subscriptions to the paywall, which cost £1 for the first four weeks and £2,99 thereafter.
The Herald’s website is the only one within Newsquest to currently have a paywall but it was revealed at the Journalism Skills Conference in November that discussions were being held within the group about whether other titles should follow the same model.
Regional managing director Tim Blott said it was clear from the figures that the metered paywall model had worked for the Herald titles but declined to say whether it should be adopted in other parts of the Newsquest group.
Tim told HTFP: “It is up to other publishers to take their own decisions. I can only comment on what we’ve done and it works for us.”
“What it demonstrates is that customers want news in different formats and are prepared to pay for it online as they would be in print.”
The increase in subscribers comes despite the number of free articles for non-subscribers being reduced from 10 to just six stories a month last August.
Tim said he believed the printed and digital offerings complemented each other and the group’s reach and influence had increased.
Tough digital targets have been set by management for their editorial staff in 2014 to ensure readers receive the fastest and most reliable breaking news service.
And the editorial department now has plasma screen which track the most popular online stories.
Preliminary figures for the HeraldScotland site show the average monthly unique visitors for July to December 2013 were 1.425m, up 16pc on the first six months of last year.
The last ABC figures for the first half of 2013 showed HeraldScotland was the fastest growing website for its daily unique users, which increased by 53pc year-on-year to 63,695.
- Editor’s note. Earlier versions of this story erroneously reported that the number of online subscriptions now exceeded the combined circulations of the Herald and Sunday Herald, as opposed to the combined number of print subscriptions. This was published in good faith as a result of statements provided to HTFP on behalf of the Herald and Times.