AddThis SmartLayers

Daily brings in permanent paywall on website after sister titles’ trials

Nancy FielderA regional daily is to implement a metered paywall permanently on its website following a trial at two of its sister titles.

The Star, Sheffield, has announced the introduction of a subscription model on its site, which will allow readers to access five free articles per week before being asked to pay – with its editor pledging users will see “fewer advertisements” online as a result.

The subscription cost will be £1 per month for the first three months and £2 per week thereafter, or an annual subscription costing £78 can be purchased.

Star owner JPIMedia announced in May that the model was being implemented on a trial basis on the websites of both Blackpool daily The Gazette and Portsmouth daily The News.   JPIMedia has told HTFP that those trials are continuing.

In a letter to readers explaining the change, Star editor Nancy Fielder, pictured, said: “The Star holds a unique role in Sheffield’s heritage and our journalists are the only ones who have recorded every event in the city to a high standard over the decades – but we are also excited about the future.

“We have transformed our newsroom and now work hard to make sure you have all today’s news and information at your fingertips on your mobile phone, tablet, laptop or PC. And we will continue to adapt and evolve our unrivaled service to meet your needs in our fast-paced digital world.

“We love providing you with the news and we trust that you want to stay on this journey with us. But quality journalism costs money and so today we are calling on the support of our loyal readers to sustain this by subscribing to thestar.co.uk.

“Our new subscription is focused on helping you stay in the know and a better online news service. We have listened to what our online readers want and this means fewer advertisements, access to our newsletters and free access to the app version of The Star.”

Nancy added: “Through your support we will be able to keep focusing on the news you want to read and report more on the issues that matter to you.

“It gives our journalists the freedom to continue reporting on the important events of the day; focusing on factual storytelling which impacts on your lives, investigating, holding powers to account, being your voice and fighting for justice.”

The announcement comes after another Yorkshire daily, the Reach plc-owned Huddersfield Daily Examiner, revealed it would be implementing a paywall trial for selected articles last week.

Other regional titles which have recently introduced paywalls include the Newbury Weekly News, the Newsquest-owned Bradford Telegraph and Argus, and seven east of England titles in the Iliffe Media stable.

22 comments

You can follow all replies to this entry through the comments feed.
  • September 9, 2019 at 11:15 am
    Permalink

    Sounds like a perfect recipe… to drive the remaining advertisers away. Not only are visitors who don’t pay only going to see five stories along with whatever adverts are served with them, the few that will pay aren’t going to see as much advertising. Brilliant!

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(31)
  • September 9, 2019 at 11:32 am
    Permalink

    Watch the traffic numbers drop ( if they’re truly independently monitored that is) as current and casual users realise a paywall is in place and go find their news elsewhere.

    Not only will this drive site visitors away, it’s highly likely to redirect them to competitor sites where the quality is as good as, if not better, and more importantly to an audience not used to paying to read online news ,free to access.

    It would be arrogant and foolish for JPI/Sheffield Star to believe their paywall only content is of sufficient interest for folk to pay £2 pw or £78 pa to access as I’m sure this move will demonstrate.
    Let’s hope for the sake of those responsible for online traffic and revenues that the trial really was as successful as has been made out and not just ticked off as a success to enable a full scale roll out to happen

    The blue touch paper has been lit.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(30)
  • September 9, 2019 at 11:51 am
    Permalink

    I wonder how the ad reps and their bosses feel about this?
    My guess is they’re not happy campers to put it mildly .

    With a paywall almost guaranteed to result traffic numbers declining and the editor proudly proclaiming fewer adverts will be seen on the site their already difficult sales pitch will become much much harder as the appeal to potential advertisers reduces in tandem with an expected audience fall off.

    Let’s hope for their sake their monthly targets and expectations are similarly reduced.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(24)
  • September 9, 2019 at 12:06 pm
    Permalink

    I’d like to see Google downgrade the results of anything behind a paywall or to put a clear indication that a paywall is in operation.

    Also if I was going to pay for access to content, I would expect ‘no’ adverts – not just fewer.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(18)
  • September 9, 2019 at 12:42 pm
    Permalink

    I agree Webmonkey but once readers find out there’s a paywall in place where payment expected before continuing it’ll manage itself, they’ll simply walk.
    I’d also like to see if adverting rates are brought down in line with site visitor numbers when fewer adverts will be seen hence my point in my comment above.
    Less viewers =less eyes to see=less people to reach= less effective= less interest in advertising.
    Somehow,like not reducing print ad rates when the copy sales numbers continue to drop month by month, I doubt it’ll happen.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(17)
  • September 9, 2019 at 12:50 pm
    Permalink

    Is there any industry innovation HTFP commenters would welcome that doesn’t come printed on newspaper?

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(22)
  • September 9, 2019 at 1:27 pm
    Permalink

    paywall?Innovation? I think this might have been done before.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(16)
  • September 9, 2019 at 1:51 pm
    Permalink

    OMG… If brains were explosive the the combined jp management wouldn’t have enough to blow a candle out! “see less ads”…. That will really please advertisers. Already micro ads on smartphone screens, ad blockers and annoying pop-ups. On top of all that the fact remains that JPI websites are dismal. Not enough staff to fill both website and paper. Rather than ask the readers to pay to visit they should be paying THEM to visit. Attracting advertisers to digital didn’t work so now they are trying to make the readers pay. Do the not know that everything on the net is FREE. The fools are Still flogging the dead digital horse. When will they ever learn?

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(23)
  • September 9, 2019 at 2:34 pm
    Permalink

    You beat me to it @Paperboy

    Regional print is in dire straits as we all know @Yorkshire Hack but believing a digital paywall is an ‘innovation’ or the answer to local news publishing’s future funding and will do nothing but turn people away is naive, it probably won’t even cover the directors or managers expenses.

    and it’s ‘news print’ not ‘news paper’

    You’re welcome

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(14)
  • September 9, 2019 at 2:50 pm
    Permalink

    An interesting idea, but will the paywall work? How do they count? Surely not by using cookies! Many people sweep these at the end of each session. Can somebody tell us how they are policing the count?

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(10)
  • September 9, 2019 at 2:54 pm
    Permalink

    I’m with @YorkshireHack on this one – so many journalists, past and present, seem to be in denial. The glory days of the printed product are not coming back, regardless of how much is spent on them. Society is moving on, in much the same way that it is eschewing hand-written letters in favour of e-mails, instant messages etc.
    The amount of whinging and bitter criticism levelled at any firm that tries something – anything – to try to find a sustainable future for local journalism is confusing. Would you have them do nothing?
    To simply throw up your hands and say ‘it’s too late, the damage is done’ is useless.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(12)
  • September 9, 2019 at 3:11 pm
    Permalink

    I understand the concerns raised by “User Generated Content”, but a carefully-run, carefully-managed genuinely-local product, with experienced feet on the ground, can do quite nicely in today’s climate. Just look at how many recent startups are still in business. Our ‘average pages per issue’ and ‘average ad revenue per page’ have both had their “highest yet” figures during the last five years. Not “highest ever”, as we hope to do better in the future!

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(11)
  • September 9, 2019 at 3:39 pm
    Permalink

    Traditional local newspapers published by the ageing regional groups are on their last legs ,new media, new technology, the rise of social media and it’s 24/7 public postings at the same time as the old publishers dumbed down their output by cutting costs and quality has resulted in their self inflicted deaths by a thousand cuts.

    The decline has been accelerated greatly over the last few years as the bigger groups tried to regain lost ground and play catch up and compete but failed spectacularly which has all but finished them as essential local news sources.New competitors have entered the market and taken once loyal local paper audiences with them and in doing so are attracting businesses keen to advertise and thus fund these new independent media operations.

    As Anne Editor says there are many of these new independents emerging to fill the gap, most using professional ex regional press staff reporting the news from their communities very effectively and providing cost effective advertising platforms for local businesses to promote on and most are growing their audiences and thriving due to well managed business plans producing modest and fair profits.

    They are the future of community publishing, taking the public with them and genuinely providing a service, not alienating their audiences by expecting them to fund outdated business operations and introducing paywalls which won’t be accepted and simply will not work.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(25)
  • September 9, 2019 at 4:46 pm
    Permalink

    @Russ – “printed on news print” doesn’t work, I don’t think I need to say why

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(1)
  • September 10, 2019 at 11:59 am
    Permalink

    It’s true that it won’t be easy to ween people away from free news. But if you are going to make them pay you have to ensure quality, good, relevant stories, well told.
    And that is where, too often, there is a problem. The reason why many local papers collapsed is not simply because of the internet – it is because they were rubbish. Journalism used to be a way of life, somewhere along the way it became a job, like working in a bank.
    As for fewer adverts. Why? Newspapers always had ads, in fact you wouldn’t have newspapers without ads. It is a silly thing to promise.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(17)
  • September 11, 2019 at 10:18 am
    Permalink

    Percy Hoskins. You nailed it. Years ago there were thousands of local reporters, probably born in the area and knowing every blade of grass. They even spent their spare time going to local events, where they picked up more stories. They didn’t spend all day scrolling down e mails and checking social media. They didn’t need that. By the time they walked in the office they had already swept up tips for stories.
    Their partners sometimes got snappy about the amount of time they dedicated to their profession, but usually supported them. These reporters were not perfect, but they delivered something better than the present soul-less and shallow material we see in too many papers.
    You need old-style reporters tor the web too, not just kids who are good at IT. But most are long out of the industry. And, as Percy says, for the modern reporter who might live a long way from what he is writing about, it is just a job.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(16)
  • September 11, 2019 at 12:31 pm
    Permalink

    @Percy and @Paperboy, you’re correct

    You could understand the public, the readers of local newspapers back then, happily paying to read content as it was hyper local, wholly unique and totally of relevance to the towns, cities and communities their local paper served and where they lived.
    Now with the magnitude of social media sites and the round the clock posting of news and ‘goings on’ to Facebook sites by the public themselves the content on a papers social media platform has to be all of the above and more if they expect people to pay to read it, sadly for them it’s a million miles away from that.
    Instead we have old news re-posted as ‘ICYMI’, rehashed press releases often published verbatim as supplied and with a stock photo or Google map image, unchecked and unnoticed typos, inaccuracies and inane top ten lists passing itself off as ‘news’

    So, are they going to radically improve things and up their game considerably ( if so why haven’t they done this already?) or will they leave it as now and expect people to shell out hard earned money to read it?

    If it wasn’t for the fact that more losses are likely to occur which could trigger more cost cutting and cause job losses, it would be laughable

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(20)
  • September 11, 2019 at 5:35 pm
    Permalink

    Less ads? We need to remember that JPI media already reduces ads particularly in what remains of the press and magazine titles. The tiny number of bewildered salespeople hanging in there waiting for redundancy are glued to computers all day with the exceedingly high pressure of a ridiculous over engineered and fantastically time consuming reporting system about activities of advertisers they have absolutely no time to see!. Looks like the last remaining sales people are being brainwashed into thinking businesses can only reach the customer with digital. It would be so interesting to see just a week of revenue results of all the JPI digital managers who report to managers who report to even higher managers if they were to given a press ad to sell using the system they expect the remaining sales people to use.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(4)
  • September 12, 2019 at 11:23 am
    Permalink

    Nick G
    are JPI reducing the number of ads or is it a case of businesses no longer getting response by advertising in papers whose copy sales are dwindling month by month so have found alternate methods and competitors to promote with?

    The ad reps where I am are being pushed hard to sell online despite not believing in it’s worth and knowing digital advertising doesn’t work for small businesses, they also realise print ads have all but dried up apart from those tied into a suicidally low yielding annual scheme or given away at ridiculously low cost to fill the holes or reach a targe.

    We all know you don’t go to an online news paper when you want to buy something and I’m sure in all honesty those managers managing other managers know that too

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(10)
  • September 12, 2019 at 11:29 am
    Permalink

    USG. I don’t think most HTFP contributors are totally against digital news. What they say is that since the papers they base the websites on are so poor, how can firms charge people for viewing stories. I am looking at my local weekly and I could send a list of mistakes, design faults, lousy grammar, unedited submitted copy, and lack of local news. All companies need to get that right before asking for money for the product. I am not blaming staff for this; they are not experienced enough in many cases and there are too few of them.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(7)