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Public ad revenue loss is ‘huge problem’ – but paywalls not the answer

Paul RowlandThe editor-in-chief of three daily newspapers and a regional news website says he faces a “huge problem” from the loss of public notice revenues – but rules out using an online paywall to counter it.

Paul Rowland, left, editor-in-chief of Media Wales and editor of Wales Online, told members of the Welsh Assembly that the decline in public advertising with regional press groups was “out of our control” and urged local authorities to “keep it with us.”

But asked whether he would consider putting Wales Online behind a paywall, he said most readers would not be “discerning enough” to choose that as opposed to getting their news for free from the BBC.

Paul was addressing the Assembly’s Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee during a discussion on News Journalism in Wales.

In his role, Paul oversees the print and online operations of Trinity Mirror’s South Wales portfolio – which includes the Western Mail, South Wales Echo and South Wales Evening Post as well as Wales Online.

Asked about the loss of revenue from public annoucements, he said:  “It’s something we’re working with local authorities on, on a consistent basis, to ensure there’s revenue there.

“It’s one of those things that if there is the will to support local media in Wales, public sector advertising is incredibly important and it is incredibly counterproductive to see that disappearing because in Wales, more than anywhere, that is the lifeblood of our newspapers and has been for many, many years.

“Councils in particular withdrawing from that is a huge problem for us and it’s out of our control. It’s not something we’re blind to by any means, but it’s for local authorities to decide what they want to do with that money and I would be extremely keen to encourage them to keep with us.”

Paul was also asked about what consideration had been given to putting Wales Online behind a paywall.

On this point, he said: “If you look at the Financial Times as an example of a paywall, that’s able to successfully operate a paywall because it has as a product which is so distinct among a market which has disposable income to spend on the product that it provides.

“That means that if you don’t subscribe to the Financial Times you are unable to access information that will probably be absolutely critical to your professional life.

“Now, I would like to think that Wales Online was that but we have BBC Wales and to be honest it was my view that there wouldn’t be a sufficient number of people who were discerning enough about the fact they preferred Wales Online to the BBC, maybe that actually were we to put a paywall in front of it they would think ‘well, I can get the BBC for free.'”

6 comments

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  • July 17, 2017 at 6:31 am
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    Publishers and editors who repeatedly bleat on about losing the lucrative PN revenues are either missing or choosing to ignore the point; councils are at liberty to advertise these notices wherever the largest audience is and nowadays that isn’t in the local paper.

    The same publishers enjoyed years of huge and consistent ( taken for granted) ad revenues from an advertising sector where the rates were set ridiculously high as they felt they had the monopoly and councils had to advertise with them,now the markets collapsed they play the tiny violin and expect sympathy and financial support,doesn’t work that way I’m afraid.
    Most publishers were quick to adopt a take it or leave it stance before the shackles came off so why should they expect ‘charity’ now? I can’t recall any publishers cutting their ad rates or reducing them to help out local councils finances when they were forced to spend vast sums to post notices.
    It’s a free market and if the product itself is deemed of insufficient value or reach to an advertiser they’ll vote with their feet and go elsewhere.

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  • July 17, 2017 at 7:43 am
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    “..I would be extremely keen to encourage them to keep with us.”
    I’ll bet he is

    We all know public notices were taken for granted for many years with high ad rates so it’s no surprise councils are looking for better deals and bigger audiences now they’re permitted to advertise in competitor media, they’ll go where they get the biggest local audience and best rates so if that’s his papers he has no need to worry

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  • July 17, 2017 at 12:45 pm
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    Believing people wouldn’t pay to read Wales online content if it was behind a paywall isn’t much of a vote of confidence to give to readers and potential advertisers of the site is it?
    and saying his readers aren’t discerning enough is hardly likely to win him any friends or new readers either

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  • July 17, 2017 at 12:58 pm
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    Madness. Ask the Guardian how their digital revolution went. Not far off the Bay of Pigs.

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  • July 17, 2017 at 1:24 pm
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    Do the maths. Eg my local weekly sales down from 22,000 to about 5,000. Local daily (ex evening) sales down from about 115,000 a day to about 11,000 a day. Yet papers demand premium rate for papers hardly anyone reads. It makes sense for council tax payers for councils to shop around. Stop bleating.

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  • July 17, 2017 at 4:53 pm
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    Why spend £1000 on an advert in the local press, hardly read by anyone. When you can spend a fraction of that targeting specific people on Facebook. Let’s face it, the younger generation won’t even know the name of a local newspaper.

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