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Deputy editor ‘would introduce paywall tomorrow’

A regional daily’s deputy editor has said he is so confident about the quality of journalism at the title he would install a paywall tomorrow.

Andy Martin from the Bournemouth Echo said he believed the industry should have never given away the “valuable commodity” of online news for nothing.

Speaking at the Journalism Skills Conference in Bournemouth, he said there were discussions being held within Newsquest about whether paywalls were “an appropriate model” for other papers in the group to follow.

Fellow Newsquest title The Herald, based in Glasgow, introduced a paywall to its website¬†in January last year and managing editor Tom Thomson said it had been “extremely successful”.

Andy told the conference: “We are having discussions about whether that is an appropriate model for the rest of the papers in the group to follow.

“I am so confident about the quality of the journalism we produce that I would put a paywall on there tomorrow.”

He added that he had got the most positive and optimistic newsroom that he had had in 17 years and said the paper had started to invest in more reporters.

There was support on Twitter for Andy’s comments from two senior Newsquest editors – Simon O’Neill of the Oxford Mail and Kevin Ward of the South Wales Argus.

In response to our headline ‘Deputy editor would introduce paywall tomorrow,’ Simon tweeted “Me too” before Kevin then tweeted “And me.”

Speaking about The Herald’s paywall, Tom said there was a bell in editorial that dings every time a new subscription is taken out.

He said he hoped the printed title could be sustained by digital revenues within around five years.

During the discussion, Tom also revealed the number of editorial staff at the Herald and Times group had been reduced by around 30-40pc in recent years but said there were still around 200 journalists.

Former Argus deputy editor Frank Le Duc, from Brighton and Hove News and Latest TV, raised concerns at the conference about fewer reporters going out of the office to cover local news.

He said: “I go to lots of council meetings and I’m often the only reporter there.

“There does seem to be a trend in some places where there are far fewer reporters out and about.”

10 comments

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  • November 27, 2013 at 9:13 pm
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    Nice attempt to rally staff but, in reality, a paywall would force him to cut more staff and put the paper at long-term risk.
    Paywalls, of any kind, are a short-term solution for national and international titles while they find their own digital USPs. For example, the FT has a natural niche, The Sun is pushing sport etc. Regional publishers will always struggle to compete with this and local news is rarely niche enough.
    If the Glasgow model was so successful, there would be no need to discuss it for other titles.
    In reality, they need to assess if the level of growth since the initial reduction in digital revenue caused by the paywall and determine whether it will be sufficient to offset the continued decline in print.
    Smaller titles, like Bournemouth, do not have this luxury and a paywall would be suicidal!

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  • November 28, 2013 at 10:57 am
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    I don’t see what other options there are. Either people value local news or they don’t. If they don’t then at least you know and can plan accordingly

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  • November 28, 2013 at 1:17 pm
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    What a shame that over the past few years his predecessors either stayed silent on the subject of the clear need for paywalls…or they simply recited the dogma of how brilliant free to use newspaper websites would be and how newspapers would earn mega money from them. I fear that it is now too late to turn back the clock.

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  • November 28, 2013 at 1:47 pm
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    If the Bournemouth Echo has a paywall it will not be read as much, I certainly will not pay, or even be able to quote it on my blogs. The FT does not get my business, I use a free one instead.

    Local news is just not that important.

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  • November 28, 2013 at 2:34 pm
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    Paywalls, a very big yes….Don’t try and fleece the public, make the charges very low, let’s say 1p a page/story hit and the revenue will come in slowly but surely. Once you’ve got a decent audience then introduce the option of more expensive subscriptions for premium content.Of course you will need some decent journalists and photographers to produce content worth paying for.
    PS: Charging for comments may discourage some of the trolls that seem to inhabit local newspaper sites at the moment.

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  • November 28, 2013 at 3:25 pm
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    There is too much competition for the written word online for many people to pay to read one newspaper. Most people reason that if it’s important, nowadays they’ll find out about it some other way. If it isn’t important but just entertaining, there are many other free ways to be entertained.

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  • November 28, 2013 at 5:42 pm
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    Not enough people buy a newspaper, there’s no way they’ll pay to view it online. Especially when they’ve already had it for free

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  • November 28, 2013 at 6:19 pm
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    If people won’t pay now they won’t pay in the future. Better to get the bad news now. People might not like the answer, but at least the question’s been asked

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  • November 29, 2013 at 10:20 am
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    Yet more proof, if any were needed, that UK regional newspaper publishers have no clue what to do about the internet.

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  • November 29, 2013 at 6:12 pm
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    The quality of news on many regional and weekly webs is not high enough to get people to pay for it. 80 per cent is just plain dull, not helped by culling the best journos to save money.
    There is a huge gamble being played with jobs because weeklies in particular don’t attract nearly enough hits to get decent web ad revenue.
    As papers are being run down what jobs will be left? We shall know in a few years. Some papers will disappear. I hope I am wrong.

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