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Editor hits back at readers ‘irritated’ by new paywall

john-wilsonAn editor has hit back at readers “irritated” by the decision to introduce a subscription option on his newspaper’s website.

Hereford Times editor John Wilson, left, has criticised those who think “news should be free” after receiving complaints about the paywall, despite access remaining predominantly free for readers.

The Times is among dozens of Newsquest titles to have introduced a metered paywall in recent weeks, although readers are only obliged to begin paying for online content if they read more than 40 articles in a month.

In his editorial, John said he “disagreed strongly” with calls he had heard from some quarters that “news should be free”.

He wrote: “Some people have been irritated by our decision, having become used over several years to reading online news for free – both on our site and others.

“But these are extraordinary times. Local newspapers such as the Hereford Times are, like many businesses, facing extreme challenges posed by the coronavirus crisis.

“The lockdown has affected many of the companies who would normally advertise with us, and that has resulted in a huge loss of the income that subsidises the cost of professional journalism.

“Meanwhile, many people either cannot get to the shops or do not visit the shops as often as before, which has hit sales of the newspaper.

“So we are asking people to pay a small sum (less than £1 a week) because we want proper local news – produced by an editor and trained journalists operating under a recognised code of practice – to survive in Herefordshire. We think most level-headed people in the county do too.”

Neither breaking news nor coronavirus-related stories count towards the paywall tally.

Speaking to HTFP, John  said: “There will still be advertising on websites for a long time and people will still have predominantly free access for a long time.

“News has always been subsidised in a way, but the minority of online readers some to think they should have free news without paying a subscription or seeing advertising. We have to start working hard to get the message across that somebody has to pay for that.

“We’ve had a few people sign up for subscriptions. I’ve had a few messages from people saying they like what we’re doing.

“It’s a case of educating people really to let them know we are a business, that to survive and prosper we do need to make money, and that this has changed slightly the way we go about that.”