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Johnston Press pilots metered registration on newspaper websites

A leading regional publisher is carrying out a trial under which users will have to register in order to get full access to content.

Johnston Press is piloting the so-called “metered registration” system on three of its newspaper websites – the Sunderland Echo, the Derbyshire Times and the Doncaster Free Press.

Although there will be no paywall imposed, the system of registration will activate once a certain number of articles have been read.

Thereafter, readers will have to sign-up in order to continue getting free access to content.


If successful, the trial is likely to be rolled out across other JP websites over the coming months.

Martin Little, the publisher’s director of digital content, said: “As part of our digital content improvement strategy, we have recently piloted a metered registration system with Sunderland Echo, the Derbyshire Times and Doncaster Free Press.

“This process continues to allow our readers completely free access to our news sites and activates only after a certain number of articles have been read.

“This will enable us to develop our websites and the overall customer experience, by offering relevant, improved content to our most engaged readers.”

Derbyshire Times readers learned of the move in a letter from group editor Phil Bramley published on the site last week.

Wrote Phil: “We’re always looking at ways of making the experience on our websites better for you, our readers. Once you’re signed in, we’ll be able to make sure the content you see is more relevant to you, and you’ll be able to help us continue to improve it.”

Phil also assured readers that their details would not be passed on to third parties and invited feedback on the proces.

In November 2009, Johnston Press trialled a paywall on some of its newspaper sites, including the Whitby Gazette and the Southern Reporter, in which readers were asked to pay a £5 subscription to read stories in full, but the project was quietly dropped in March 2010.


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  • September 21, 2017 at 9:18 am

    I have tried to register to the Sunderland Echo website for more than a week but everytime I have received a ‘We are having technical difficulties’ message. Even a phone call to the Echo a week ago about the problem has made no difference. It was much easier to access the local news when you could buy a printed copy – not the excuse for an evening paper that’s on sale today.

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  • September 21, 2017 at 9:23 am

    If you have an ad blocker running on your browser this triggers the registration requirement without reading anything. If they’re worried about visitors not creating ad viewing figures they should take a look at Trinity Mirror’s regional sites that defeat ad blockers by reloading ‘blocked’ pages with new, unique code and urls.

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  • September 21, 2017 at 12:58 pm

    Like many people, I use a VPN or Tor for most personal internet usage. While not foolproof, it’s provides at least some additional layer of security.

    However, with a metered paywall which presumably blocks content based upon IP address, I’d have no issue with accessing all the content I wished at the click of a button.

    Will this be the case for the majority of users? Probably not, but there’s a bigger problem for publishers than a few digitally-savvy people using ad blockers and VPNs.

    For your typical user, the likes of Google, Facebook and Apple are putting a squeeze on how local publishers can monetise their content. For example, Apple has just announced that iOS11 and High Sierra have ‘intelligent tracking prevention’ to stop users being followed by adverts based upon what they have previously visited. Google is also planning to update Chrome to prevent sound on autoplay videos.

    These examples will have a some damaging effects on the digital marketing strategies of Johnston, TM etc.

    The fact is, most people aren’t willing to pay for local news no matter how in-depth and detailed it is. With Google, Facebook and Apple in a position to determine how the general public finds and accesses any publishers’ information, the battle is lost. So forget about paywalls, subscriptions and advertising tricks. All you can really do is work with them to try and get some sort of fair reward for your efforts.

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