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Free news ‘not sustainable’ says editor as weekly brings in paywall

Andy MurrillAn independent weekly newspaper is to introduce a pay-as-you-read system on its website – saying continuing to give away stories for free is “not sustainable.”

The Newbury Weekly News has announced it is bringing in the system, which will allow readers to continue using its site without taking out a subscription.

Users will have to pay 20p to read a single premium article, after which all content will be free for the rest of that day.

Most stories, including breaking news and crime updates, will remain free to access.

Editor Andy Murrill, pictured, said: “The Newbury Weekly News is independent and believes passionately in supporting the community and holding those in power to account – and we want to continue to do so for many years to come.

“Yet, it’s no secret that the journalism industry faces serious challenges. While our website allows us to reach more people than ever before, the simple truth is that giving our stories away for free online is not sustainable – because quality, independent journalism costs money to produce.

“Asking our readers to pay a small fee to read some premium articles on www.newburytoday.co.uk will strengthen our ability to continue to provide high-quality journalism to readers across West Berkshire.”

The system is being introduced in partnership with technology company Axate’s “digital wallet” tool.

Regional news site Cornwall Reports announced earlier this week that it was working with Axate, formerly known as Agate, to introduce a scheme similar to that being implemented by the Weekly News.

Dominic Young, chief executive of Axate, said: “We’re thrilled that the Newbury Weekly News is using Axate to offer customers an option to pay per article.

“Our digital wallet ensures readers can access premium articles without the hassle and cost of multiple subscriptions, and provides a much-needed new revenue stream to publishers.”

8 comments

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  • July 29, 2019 at 11:41 am
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    Blimey. Another chance for one of my Monday competitions (see Simon Fox article). This one is, ‘fill in the missing word': No **** Sherlock.

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  • July 29, 2019 at 12:22 pm
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    And so it begins….the slow painful demise of digital. Everyone knows that everything on the Internet is free, haha, and paying (even 20p) is not on. It seems the penny (or 20p) has finally dropped with greedy publishers that free news is not sustainable’. Doh… I have been saying that for the past 10 years! Yet the fools who run newspapers have been flogging the dead digital horse in a desperate attempt to bring it to life. Creating free news websites in direct competition with your own printed product is madness. Especially as ad revenues are dismal. Digital works for many things and pays, the recording industry for one, but it will never work for news, especially weekly local news. It wasn’t broken so why fix it. Greedy publishers went headlong into digital and basically abandoned their printed products. But it hasn’t worked and now they have TWO failing platforms. At last the end is nigh.

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  • July 29, 2019 at 12:53 pm
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    Remember NWN from pre-internet days – then it was good local paper (glad to see it’s still independent) but loyal, older readers sustained it. They’re not likely to pay for website access. Feels like a desperate move – can’t see it working

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  • July 29, 2019 at 1:13 pm
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    What premium articles might they be?
    Most so-called big weekly stories now are hand-outs from cops, councils, and NHS trusts. and can be sourced from them.. There is very little original work, such as investigations, because of the lack of staff.
    Anyway their plan works out at £1.40 a week .
    One weekly I read had a front page splash on a charity bike ride?
    Is that a premium story?
    At 20p a go each day it will be cheaper to wait for any paper to come out ( while it still exists of course.) .
    But good luck with it. Jobs will depend on the success or otherwise of this development.

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  • July 29, 2019 at 1:27 pm
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    Nothing independent about the NWN these days despite what they claim. They sold out to Iliffe Media a while back and it’s they who call the shots. A desperate measure to generate a little additional income in the face of plummeting ad revenue and circulation figures.

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  • July 30, 2019 at 1:04 pm
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    I honestly despair at Hold The Front Page comments at times. What do you people want? Probably a return to the good old days when you could spend two hours in the pub every afternoon “picking up stories” at a time when journalists decided what was interesting, not the readers.

    Newspapers aren’t just competing with telly and radio any more. Information comes from everywhere and we’re up against the likes of streaming sites like Netflix and Amazon; social media and gaming for people’s attention. If we had never put news online, print sales would still be declining every year. How could a local weekly paper compete with a local Facebook group?

    We really are battling to make people understand what local papers are here for and why they are important. And we need to do everything we can to make sure they have a future!

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  • July 30, 2019 at 2:26 pm
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    I smell desperation in the air along with arrogance that what they’re providing is unique enough to make people pay to read it.
    It’s the same as putting the cover price up in a newspaper and an action which usually represents the last roll of the dice when all else has failed.
    Paywalls and subscriptions simply do not work for regional titles, top national brands with columnists, in-depth unique,well written news pieces and thought provoking analysis yes,but for a local title it’s a dead duck.

    When you can get all the local info,news and updates readily available across multi platforms including social media and broadcast media sites you sure as heck aren’t going to pay for it.

    Monetising revenue is a wholly commercial operation so if the ad people can’t sell sufficient advertising onto the site as it is now, then expecting people to pay to view will simply drive those current users away.

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  • July 30, 2019 at 5:12 pm
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    To reprise what some other commentators have said here, people have to want to buy what a publication offers, whether it be off the shelves or from behind a paywall. They are not going to want to buy the sort of substandard offerings that once-decent publications have been forced into because of a succession of cuts to staff and other resources. Quality is quality whether it is online or in WH Smiths, and in no wise can some of the articles which appear these days be deemed quality. Suddenly deciding to plonk everything behind a pay wall is not going to help when your readership has been used to getting everything for free, sub standard or not. They will simply turn to other sources. Also, while I understand where Yorkshirehack is coming from, I think he/she will find that most people on here are not pining for the old days as that ship has truly sailed. What they are upset about is the way the decline of print has been mishandled by management, so that decline is hastening the destruction of once-proud titles.

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