An independent weekly has launched a partial paywall in response to what it says is growing reader demand for more news to be put online.
The Rotherham Advertiser has announced it is introducing the payment scheme as it prepares to increase the amount of content it will publish on its website.
The Advertiser says it intends to publisher more “longer items” which currently only appear in print – including council and planning stories, court reports, sports news and opinion columns.
The new payment scheme, which the paper’s editor says should have been introduced on an industry-wide basis years ago, will be subscription-free, using the Axate ‘digital wallet’ system already used by a number of regional press titles.
Advertiser readers will pay 20p to read a premium article, up to a maximum of 40p per day, while smaller pieces and breaking news stories about traffic or police incidents will remain free of charge.
Explaining the decision, editor Andrew Mosley wrote: “We still sell more than 15,000 copies of the Advertiser – read by more than 40,000 – every week, and, including our free papers the Record and Weekender, print over four million papers a year.
“But the simple world of 1858, when the paper was born, has changed a lot. You don’t have to pick up a printed paper to read any more, and a lot of you naturally choose to read the limited news feed we provide on our website and Facebook.
“You have told us you would like to see more of our content online and we want to be able to deliver it to you.
“However, online news doesn’t make anywhere near as much revenue as print output. It costs money to produce, but readers receive it free of charge. This creates obvious challenges to our ability to carry on serving the community is the way we – and you – would want.”
Other regional press groups currently operating or experimenting with Axate paywalls include Iliffe Media and Baylis Media, as well as the Newbury Weekly News, Cornwall Reports and the Barnsley Chronicle.
The Huddersfield Daily Examiner recently ended a five-month paywall trial using the system.
Andrew, pictured, added: “The income it generates will help us sustain and build on our commitment to quality journalism at a time when the reduced number of advertisers supporting the paper alone does not fund this. This move will enable us to continue the fight to make Rotherham’s voice louder.
“When you sign up you can be safe in the knowledge you are helping quality, sustainable journalism and that the money we make from this won’t be going into the pockets of shareholders.”
Speaking to HTFP, he said: “Obviously we are aware that this will not be a universally popular move and it’s one that, as a whole, the industry should have introduced many years ago, but we hope people understand why we are doing it and continue to support us by reading our stories in print or online.”