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Editor touts plan for ‘harder paywall’ on regional daily’s website

Richard NevilleThe editor of one of Britain’s biggest regional dailies editor has announced plans to implement what he termed a “harder paywall” for readers of the newspaper’s website.

Richard Neville, left, editor-in-chief the Aberdeen-based daily The Press & Journal, wants to see “a lot more bespoke digital-only content” on the paper’s site.

The Press & Journal currently runs a metered paywall on its site, which sees readers get access to a certain number of free articles each month before being told to choose from a variety of subscription packages.

But in an interview with media and marketing magazine The Drum, Richard admitted that “running a metered paywall is difficult” and that subscribers are only in the “low thousands.”

Said Richard: “What we would like to do over time is to make it a harder paywall and put a lot more bespoke digital-only content behind it.”

He conceded that such an approach was “not necessarily compatible with much of the industry” in the UK, saying: “That pile it high, page view-based approach is a very British view.”

But he added: “If you look around the world… Scandinavian and American papers are recognising that the problem with trying to monetise page views is that – as my schoolboy economics tells me – when supply is infinite, price drops.

“The supply of advertising space on the internet is infinite.”

Richard added:  “In other regional papers in Britain, the resources are such that – even if they wanted to – I’m not sure that they could serve unique content to their audiences.

“Content creation is the absolute first for us and we protect that above all else. As long as we have that content you must be able to make money out of it.”

“We don’t have any news infrastructure here; PA doesn’t operate here and there are relatively few freelance agencies here so if we want to fill our pages with stories from our part of the world we have no other option but to open the door and take out a bunch of reporters every day to go out and find stuff.

“We are in every council and every court on our patch every day.  That’s what we do that nobody else does and that unique content is so important. It’s a simple formula: nobody else is doing it therefore we should benefit from it.”


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  • November 12, 2018 at 9:25 am

    There is no serious money available in local/regional digital news/views.
    Hasn’t anyone got the message yet?

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  • November 12, 2018 at 9:55 am

    Richard Neville’s reasoning is sound; however, it’s far too late now. I remember in around 2001 having battles with the web editor who would come round at about 6.30pm (when his shift was ending) wanting the following morning’s lead to go online later that evening. It was a struggle to resist, or even offer the compromise of putting a short taster which would end with “For full story see today’s paper”. Had, at that point, newspapers charged for their online offerings at least readers would now be used to the concept. However, in an age when people expect everything for nothing – just look at a football messageboard offering advice for free streams when Sky/BT are showing a game – it’s fanciful to expect anyone to cough up even the smallest of micro-payments.

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  • November 12, 2018 at 11:12 am

    This is very much a case of closing the door after the horse has bolted I’m afraid, as previous commenters have said,the public, used to getting news,features and comment for free from a multitude of other digital news providers will not pay for it, no matter how well it’s presented.
    Traditional regional newspaper publishers have tried for many years to monetise news and it’s just not happened,they’re in a market and against competitors they can’t compete with trying to make the best of what they have to hand,they’re under pressure to deliver revenues,cover costs and make profit but I’m sorry, local paywalls just won’t work.

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  • November 12, 2018 at 11:17 am

    “…subscribers are only in the “low thousands.”
    Producing how much money to the bottom line?
    If that’s the situation currently,implementing a harder paywall will only result in driving existing subscribers away without encouraging new ones to join up.
    In terms of generating revenue, it’s a non starter

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  • November 12, 2018 at 1:21 pm

    Are any of the above commentators paying attention to the industry today? Whether we like it or not – and many of you do not – the world has changed.
    Newspapers are struggling. Yes, some are still making a profit, but since the heyday of local press there are no small ads, the estate agents have gone online, so too the jobs adverts.
    In the meantime the young don’t buy newspapers any more – so we are relying on an increasingly ageing readership. And the idea that they may have to pay for their news is an an anathema to them.
    Looking at the hyper local newspapers, valiantly set up do make small break even profits (in many cases), but seriously they only operate as a cottage industry, employing very few people.
    Digital, whether we like it or not – and many of you do not – is the future of the industry. How we make it pay is a different kettle of fish. We can’t wait until the last reader is dead before we find the alternative.

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  • November 12, 2018 at 3:10 pm

    @ Percy Hoskins
    I’m well aware that print is doomed (I seldom buy papers any more having worked in the industry for years) and that digital is the only possible way forward. However, there is no way of making it pay; it’s just not a case of hanging on until the last reader dies before finding an alternative, it simply won’t happen. This in an industry in its death throes – the big companies might soon ditch their print products and pin their hopes on dreadful websites, but the likes of Reach, NQ and Archant will all have vanished by the time we mark the centenary of the outbreak of the Second World War in 2039 because they have demonstrated no viable medium-to-long-term business planning for alternative strategies ever since the advent of social media..
    Britain is an economy in which everything is now governed by price, not quality, and not enough people are going to be prepared to pay for local news, however important that might be for society or democracy. Governments for years ahead are going to be working on the impact of Brexit – whatever happens in 2019 – so there’s going to be no new state initiative riding to the rescue.

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  • November 12, 2018 at 4:15 pm

    News websites can’t charge for their online content, the reason? Lloyd Embley was complaining about it just the other day – the BBC. They offered their content for free and Rushbridger started offering The Guardian’s content for free and what we ended up with is a model that everyone has had to go follow.
    People now expect not to pay. Indeed some have gone so far as to suggest it is immoral that we be allowed to charge for it (you can guess the age cohort of those particluar views).
    Paywalls probably aren’t the answer anyway. The Sun had a paywall and it falled. Why? Because its readers weren’t THAT interested. The Times has a paywall and it works. Why? Because its readers are professionals and they will pay for quality news.

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  • November 12, 2018 at 4:55 pm

    Local newspaper groups across the country, having complacently abandoned print in favour of the mythical rich pickings from digital, have tried to generate ad revenue from local businesses who’ve not shown interest and given it a wide berth,now they’re aiming at readers by trying to implement paywalls when the paying audience for local news isn’t there.
    On top of this AP&J are looking to push out a harder paywall,why?
    Surely this is a recipe for disaster.
    Print ad revenue has gone
    Copy sales revenue has gone
    Digital isn’t working and cannot be monetised and no one has a plan B,C or D

    I guess the problem all groups now have is that having lost the local newspaper audience and being unable to replace it with digital revenue they really have to try anything to stimulate sales,but if this doesn’t work what’s left?
    More questions than answers

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  • November 12, 2018 at 5:07 pm

    Percy Hoskins. You have it spot on. People will pay for quality news. Frankly that rules out the 21st century regional and weekly paper websites because the quality of news and writing just is not high enough to tempt a meaningful number of people to pay for it. That is the crunch situation facing the regional media as print withers and dies in the next few years. If you must work in media head for radio or television asap.

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