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Sister dailies launch paywall trial in bid to ‘reduce exposure to falling ad revenues’

A paywall trial has been launched at two sister dailies in what its owner hopes will “reduce our exposure to falling advertising revenues”.

JPIMedia has set up paywalls on the websites of both Blackpool daily The Gazette and Portsmouth daily The News.

The subscription scheme has launched with an introductory offer of a £1 per month for three months on the sites, with other titles set to follow in due course.

Readers will be able to access five free articles per week before being asked to pay, with individual subscriptions being required for each title they wish to access.

The new scheme was revealed to staff in an announcement by JPIMedia chief executive David King yesterday afternoon.

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Said David: “As you know, we have been exploring a number of digital initiatives to help us build a sustainable business, including the launch of the digital acceleration programme, replatforming our websites, launching new apps and improving content tagging.

“Today we are launching a subscription model that will help us develop a new income stream and reduce our exposure to falling advertising revenues. Digital subscriptions will initially run across two JPIMedia titles, the Blackpool Gazette and Portsmouth News with others to follow.

“We are launching with an introductory offer of a £1 per month for three months on Blackpool Gazette and Portsmouth News websites. We will place a metering limit of five free articles per week, before the user is asked to pay for access.

“The subscription offer focuses on helping the reader stay in the know, and have an enhanced online experience. This means fewer ads, access to our newsletters and free access to the app version of our publications.”

The scheme’s launch comes two weeks after JPIMedia began introducing a series of new “mobile first” websites, which will be brought in across all of its titles during 2019.

Last month the company also announced it was set to trial a newsroom restructure which will see journalists move away from the print production process and concentrate on digital work.

David added: “Impartial, high-quality journalism costs money to produce and cannot be sustained through traditional advertising alone. We will ask our readers to pay for our regulated and trusted news service.

“There is growing evidence the public is willing to pay for digital content and we will focus on learning which content our loyal audiences want.

“We will be keeping you up to date on how these launches evolve and share with you what we learn about our most loyal readers. This is the start of a long journey as we start to shape our new strategy.”

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.

11 comments

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  • May 31, 2019 at 9:47 am
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    Expecting payment and subscribers to access the news isn’t the answer, the revenue has to come from advertising.
    The piece yesterday about the Daily Mails increases in digital revenue was achieved purely from its advertising teams monetising the DMs web traffic as its content is still totally free.
    News paywalls are a sure fire way to drive site users to other free to access news providers, and when the numbers drop so does the appeal of the site to potential advertisers.
    One for the advertising teams to work on while the editorial teams focus on top quality local news provision

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  • May 31, 2019 at 10:01 am
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    “reduce our exposure to falling advertising revenues”

    Reduce their exposure to readers, more like. Paywalls seem to deliver revenue when you have a potential audience in the millions – The Times being an example – and a paper chock full of journalism. Asking people to pay to read rehashed press releases is like asking people to pay to catch a cold.

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  • May 31, 2019 at 10:16 am
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    They just don’t get it do they?

    Putting up a paywall is exactly the same as putting your cover price up, it drives away far more than it attracts new users, even the reasons they’re quoting are the same as when they’re trying to justify a cover hike.
    “ …Impartial, high-quality journalism costs money to produce and cannot be sustained through traditional…. etc, etc, etc
    That’s your problem, not the end users!

    It’s frustrating to see publishers so out of ideas and unaccepting of the lack of appeal of their products going around and around coming up with the same desperate dead end reasons for asking end user to cough up for something previous free, take a reality check … it won’t work.

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  • May 31, 2019 at 10:34 am
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    They just don’t get it. Paywalls only work if you are offering premium content, which is why they are successful for FT and The Times, etc.

    Lobbing on a cut and paste of a police press release or a coverage of a KFC opening taken from ‘readers tweets’ won’t entice people to pay. They’ll soon get wise to this and go elsewhere.

    Why not first enhance your content and make people possibly become prepared to pay.

    Same old ideas from these loons at the top and when they fail (it was tried at Whitby Gazette about five years ago) and revenues fall, guess who goes – content writers!

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  • May 31, 2019 at 10:36 am
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    £8 a month after the trial for poor content won’t work after giving it away for free since day one.
    JPI’s website template is terrible, so can’t imagine why anyone would pay £8 a month. Local newspapers pump out clickbait rubbish based on national news topics and 10 things I don’t care about. It will fail, miserably

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  • May 31, 2019 at 10:57 am
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    They used to say ‘ when all else fails put your cover price up”
    Now it’s “ we can’t cover our costs so we’re going to pass that cost on to you via a paywall”

    It’s the last roll of the dice and shows they’re out of ideas and running on empty

    It won’t work

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  • May 31, 2019 at 11:34 am
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    More fiddling around which will fail to stop the rot.
    Everyone I know despairs at the state of our local JPI website which is offputting to use, let alone pay for. Fortunately, we have access to the likes of Facebook for pics/info from citizens on local incidents/information which are later recycled in the paper/website as there are insufficient journalists to provide the service of yesteryear.
    Mr King says “we will focus on learning which content our loyal readers want.”
    Well, if after all this time JPI doesn’t know what its customers want it’s no wonder revenues have collapsed. Also, they are no longer loyal as 80 to 90 per cent have stopped buying newspapers.
    What is happening at JPI now is that it’s business as usual in the offices with new initiatives being introduced to try and improve trading, but away from the offices the big decisions are pending. Its owners are seeking, we are told, buyers for the business. Apart from a handful of stand-alone titles, that has serious consequences. Editorial and back office functions have been centralised so unless another group buys the smaller titles and is able to operate in a similar manner, those titles will fold. Any profit will disappear if new owners bought them and were left to bring in-house editorial and back office costs which were centralised.

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  • May 31, 2019 at 12:08 pm
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    A bonkers idea.

    It is bonkers for all the reasons outlined above by other commenters but, to be fair, not quite as bonkers as deciding to no longer print next-day match reports in football-daft areas.

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  • May 31, 2019 at 1:24 pm
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    I’d expect access to full digital pdf editions for £8 a month, not just a dated website full of generic regional fluff. Coming on the back of earlier print deadlines for the paper, this is another own goal from the management. Taken with the recent decisions to further degrade sister title the Fleetwood Weekly News (by reducing the paper to 32-pages while raising its cover price to £1.05) the management is literally adopting a “less is more” approach. It seems JPI Media couldn’t organise a fart in a baked bean factory.

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  • June 3, 2019 at 1:49 pm
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    PaperDesk, why would you want digital PDFs instead of html web pages?

    Anyway, as I’ve said before, paywalls are pointless for regional newspapers. As for a part paywalls, are there really more than five stories a week in Blackpool or Portsmouth (especially ones that aren’t being covered by the local BBC website for free) that readers would be willing to pay for?

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