Hyperlocal newspapers are still making ‘healthy profits’ without giving away their content for free online, says former editor Steve Dyson.
In an article for InPublishing magazine, media consultant and HTFP blogger Steve analysed three small print titles which all limit the amount of content which can be viewed on their websites.
In the piece, Steve challenges the now widely-held industry view that only a digital-first strategy can succeed in the internet age.
The Advertiser website carries no news or adverts at all except an image of that week’s front page, the Soutwark News site restricts users to the first two paragraphs of stories, and filtonvoice is limited to stories already published.
Said Steve: “I looked at a variety of hyperlocal print products – one old-fashioned, rural and little changed for decades, another more modern and thriving in London and the last just six-months old – and all making healthy profits.
“How? Well, while all three were very different, the common thread for all of them was being a print product that didn’t give away content for free online.
“A bit like Private Eye, hyperlocal newspapers can be successful by securing a niche market and not giving content away for nothing.”
Richard Coulter, publisher of filtonvoice, told Steve he saw no worth in devaluing his newspaper by publishing content online first.
He added: “It’s a print model offering advertisers certain numbers through certain letterboxes in a niche market. I’m not sure digital can yet offer such good assurances. I’ve had just one advertiser request the website.”
Chris Mullany, editor of Southwark News, said: “It’s an anomaly that web content for papers has, by and large, been free to access.”
As well as restricting content on the website, the paper also charges users 40p – the same as the cover price of the paper – to access its digital edition.
Said Chris: “We pay our journalists to produce high quality journalism – I can’t see how we can carry on doing that if people can read it free online.
“We explained this to website readers and I think people accept it’s about preserving good journalism, rather than trying to make a fast buck.”