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.'”