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Regional dailies set to take part in new online paywall trial

A regional publisher is to make a fresh attempt to trial paywalls on two of its daily newspaper websites – 10 years after a similar experiment was scrapped.

HTFP understands JPIMedia is set to put up partial paywalls on the sites of Portsmouth daily The News and Sheffield daily The Star in a new bid to monetise online content.

Earlier this month it was revealed that the idea was being discussed at senior levels of the company amid concerns about falling advertising revenues.

JPIMedia has declined to reveal any further details about the trial, or whether any other titles will be participating. However, it is understood that while up to five articles a week will continue to be free to access, readers will be asked to pay a subscription of £2 a week above that threshold.

The move comes a decade after JPIMedia’s predecessor company, Johnston Press, tried without success to introduce paywalls on some of its smaller newspaper websites, including the Whitby Gazette.

The company has yet to reveal a launch date for the new trial or how long it will last.

The Star is understood to be involved in the trial

The Star is understood to be involved in the trial

A JPIMedia spokesman said: “Like most publishers across the UK and beyond, JPIMedia is continually assessing opportunities to better monetise its online content to build a more sustainable future for its titles.

“Meanwhile, we are also investing in re-platforming our websites and apps in order to significantly improve our reader’s user experience.”

In 2009, JPIMedia forerunner Johnston Press trialled paywalls at six weeklies across the country – the Worksop Guardian, Ripley and Heanor News, Whitby Gazette, Northumberland Gazette, Carrick Gazette and Southern Reporter.

Some of the newspapers involved began uploading short ‘teaser’ stories to their sites, with a £5 subscription for anyone wanting to read them in full. The experiment was later quietly dropped by the company.

In May last year the Yorkshire Post, then owned by JP, introduced online registration for readers in a move designed to prevent the use of ad-blocking software.

In an open letter to readers, editor James Mitchinson justified the move on the grounds that the paper’s “high quality journalism” needed to be paid for.

At the time, he added the Leeds-based Post was “exploring other business models” for the long term, but declined to go further.


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  • March 28, 2019 at 9:15 am

    If they cannot attract enough income from web ads what else can they do? Newspaper sales on many regionals and weeklies are so low now that they struggle to keep going in print, let alone prop up websites. Local journalism would appear to be at the crossroads financially and I wish everyone in it the best of luck. Better websites might help.

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  • March 28, 2019 at 9:28 am

    If digital advertising isn’t performing, replacing the missing revenue with subscriptions might plug the gap in the short term but restricting access to content – including advertising – with a paywall isn’t going to work. On a grander scale we’ve already seen Telegraph Media’s attempts to monetise content with their subscription model contribute to to profits falling by 50% to £13m, expected to drop to zero in this FY.

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  • March 28, 2019 at 9:38 am

    Is there anything worth paying for on these sites? My local newspaper, which used to have 18 editorial staff, now has just one and it’s shovelled full of powder puff press releases. Who would pay for this?

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  • March 28, 2019 at 9:55 am

    People will only pay for something if it’s perceived to be of value, this is why local newspaper sales have collapsed.
    Giving away the news for free on line was always going to result in the local paper losing sales, though perhaps no one could have imagined the extent they have with majority of titles on the brink of collapse,so their only hope now is to monetise their online news sites but a paywall isn’t the answer,attracting paying advertisers is.

    A paywall will only work if the content is worth paying for so no matter how worthy the publisher might think the content is,folk will make their own minds up and if the printed output is anything to go by they won’t bother paying for more of the same on line,and without the site traffic they’ll not attract advertisers.
    Rock and a hard place

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  • March 28, 2019 at 11:07 am

    DOOMED!, Why would you pay for something that you can get for free just by searching online. The world has moved on and audiences want news for free and instantly, they don’t care who tells them as long as it’s relevant and up to date.
    Get a grip guys and gals, its the bods at the top calling the shots on this one and it’s never going to work. They are so disjointed from the boots on the ground both commercially and editorially that it’s mile apart from the real world.
    It’s like Rees-Mogg coming to my house and asking for his food in Latin, he’s going home hungry!

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  • March 28, 2019 at 12:03 pm

    It’s not just here @Hanginthere the yes man / woman attitude prevalent across the main publishers will always result in car crash strategies from the top being adopted for fear of saying the wrong thing or not being seen to be on the bus.
    The commercial heads are also to blame for accepting it when they must know a paywall will drive readers and therefore advertisers away once the numbers fall.

    Oh for the days of real editors and business minded ad managers unafraid to make a stand against foolish decisions and who fought for the overall good of the business and their teams,and of a time when openness and discussion from all sides was welcomed.

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  • March 28, 2019 at 2:14 pm

    A lot of the material on JPI websites is poorly written and badly needs editing. Does the firm employ editors/subs any more? Or perhaps they don’t have the experience. Start at the beginning JPI and get the product right first. Please.

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  • March 28, 2019 at 3:16 pm

    @paperboy. To be fair have you ever read the BBC News app. Every other story has grammatical errors even to my less educated eye. It doesn’t make it better but if the BBC with their somewhat bottomless pit can’t get it right then what hope is there for the local publishers who are cut to the bone.

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  • March 28, 2019 at 5:10 pm

    I really don’t think paywalls are the way forward.
    I know print sales are drastically low across the board, but thousdands of people in the paper’s patches will still read news and still engage with their websites daily.
    People who once would have read the paper every day will be reading their content on their smartphones – an instant method of delivering news to the reader.
    This should present an opportunity for news outlets, who now have a far greater reach than ever before, on paper at least (if ypu pardon the pun).
    Why don’t companies harness the principles of print and convert them to online and mobile?
    Clear, concise content delivered and packaged in a readable and user-friendly format, accompanied by paid-for, non-intrusive adverts? You know, like a newspaper always has been.
    Instead of clickbait articles that you can’t read anyway because of a thousand pop ups and being harassed for a survey every five seconds. (Not singling out any website here, there all largely as bad each other at the big companies.)

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  • March 29, 2019 at 10:23 am

    Formerly loyal follower. Agree 100 per cent. There seems to be an assumption generally that stories on websites do not have to be written in proper English or constructed well. Or perhaps hacks with little experience, guidance or writing ability are just shoving stories in boxes to meet web quotas? Good editing is required, and lacking.

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