A regional publisher has introduced online subscription to the websites of all of its regional dailies.
In what appears to be a soft-launch of a new part-paywall model, Newsquest has introduced the scheme inviting readers to sign up to a subscription of either £4.99 per month or £52 per year.
In return, those who sign up will receive access to unlimited articles, up to an 80pc reduction in visible advertising on the site and the ability to post comments online.
Newsquest titles which have introduced paywall schemes in recent years include Glasgow daily The Herald, the Northern Echo and the Bradford Telegraph & Argus.
Other Newsquest sites now featuring a ‘subscribe’ option include those of the Bolton News, Bournemouth Echo, Brighton daily The Argus, Carlisle News & Star, Colchester Daily Gazette, Dorset Echo, Essex daily The Echo, Glasgow Times, Greenock Telegraph, Lancashire Telegraph, The National, North Wales daily The Leader, Oxford Mail, South Cumbria daily the Mail, South Wales Argus, Southern Daily Echo, Swindon Advertiser, Worcester News and York daily The Press.
Readers will be required to register after reading 20 articles in a month and will be asked to subscribe after reading 40, although coronavirus-related news will not be included in the tally.
A company spokesman said: “We continue to believe that the online local news model will be predominantly a free to access one for the foreseeable future.
“However, we have been running digital subscriptions across a number of our sites for some time with encouraging results, and we will now be extending this approach to 20 more large sites.
“By users only needing to register if they wish to read more than 20 articles per month, and only need to pay if they wish to consume more than 40 articles per month, we ensure that our local news sites remain the number one trusted community hub – typically read by more than 70pc of the local population – whilst also developing new revenues and new opportunities from data.
“Users will not need to subscribe for coronavirus news updates so that this important local information remains free to all users. The majority of Newsquest’s local sites will continue to be entirely free to access.”
A page inviting readers to subscribe on each site is accompanied by a short frequently asked questions section, which states: “We passionately believe in the value of good trusted journalism and providing in-depth local news coverage.
“If you share that belief you can experience the benefits of unlimited advert-light news access from journalists you know and trust on your favourite devices - subscribe today.
“With a digital subscription you will experience up to 80% less advertising, this means faster loading pages and ultimately a much better user experience.”
Under a section headed ‘Why should I pay for a subscription when I can access news for free on other sites?’, it adds: “We provide unrivalled local, trusted news coverage and only subscribers can enjoy our content in an unrestricted advert-light environment.”
The move comes as Iliffe Media editorial director Ian Carter criticised people for sharing a Sunday Times story about the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic for free after it had been put behind a paywall.
In a widely shared Twitter post, Ian wrote: “Lots of people rightly praising the Sunday Times insight report into government pandemic planning.
“Same people happily copy and pasting the entire article to avoid the paywall. Keep doing that and this type of journalism won’t exist any more.”
Ian said the post had led to him receiving some “really interesting feedback” on the social media site.
In a series of follow-up posts, he added: “Loads of people said they would be prepared to pay for single articles but don’t want to subscribe to any one publication. These micropayment models do exist – see Axate or Blendle – but will only ever work if they get critical mass.
“I think it’s a huge collective failing that our industry has never managed to take a unified approach to online payment or subscriptions platforms. It’s probably as big a mistake as the decision to give all our content away for free in the first place.”