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Weekly launches web paywall as readers demand more content online

Andrew MosleyAn 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.”


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  • March 11, 2020 at 10:48 am

    On the one hand Mr Mosley says it’s due to reader demand for long form online content then on the other he hopes readers will understand the reasons why they’ve chosen the paywall route.

    I am sure we all know there’s a vast difference between people saying they want to see more content on line than those actually prepared to pay to access it so I just hope they’ve thought this one through as unlike national paywall sites, regional pay to view has been wholly unsuccessful.

    In general the content produced by the main regionals is nowhere near as compelling,engaging unique or local enough to warrant payment so unless it’s all this and more I fear it faces an uphill struggle from the off.

    As an independent publisher i really hope this model works but if it doesn’t come off it could well affect overall site traffic negatively putting off casual visitors who may find the content they’re interested in behind a paywall but not interested enough to pay to view so end up going elsewhere to find it.

    Good luck though Andrew, I hope you buck the trend

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  • March 11, 2020 at 11:38 am

    @Annon you are spot on but what have they to lose? The Advertiser is selling a remarkable 15,000 copies a week – that’s pretty good going in this day and age. What would make sense is to have a paywall that costs about the same – perhaps even a little more – than the paper itself with a week’s view.

    For advertisers this would show that people see this as a worthwhile quality product not full of trash and misleading headlines.

    For those that complain that they meant they wanted FREE stuff online – tough. They can continue buying the newspaper or go without.

    For the advertising teams they can explore new ways of making online work, while still selling print advertising.

    For newspaper sales they can look at ways of encouraging people to sign up.

    It all makes perfect sense. Digital is the future but throwing all your eggs in one basket is idiotic, rather than scaling up failure, you can learn and scale up success.

    Good luck to them.

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  • March 11, 2020 at 12:11 pm

    I totally agree Percy
    my only fear is even at 40p per day or £2 per week will there be enough of those asking for more online content prepared to pay when they can probably find what they’re after elsewhere?
    Consumers hop around digital platforms and the many and varied social media sites looking for what they want and can usually find it with a few clicks so expecting people to remain loyal and pay for online content on one site won’t be easy.

    I really hope this works but past experience and even the recent example of the Huddersfield Examiner pulling the plug midway through their trial period, would indicate subscriptions, even part subscription ,on a regional news site is a tough nut to crack.
    I also agree with the editor when he says it’s something the industry should have tackled years ago when digital news was first emerging so expecting people to pay for something they’ve had free for years is a big big ask, but again, I sincerely hope it works.

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  • March 11, 2020 at 12:53 pm

    Wpuld it be worthwhile asking the Huddersfield Examiner how it went? How much they made?

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  • March 11, 2020 at 1:01 pm

    @Annon it’s a little difficult to judge because we don’t know how good, bad, or indifferent the paper is. The fact that it is selling 15k a week, suggests it is well regarded.

    Looking at some of the free websites, you can see why they are free: not so much the grammar as the tripe served up as “local” news and features.

    And that’s the beauty of good local news, not big enough to interest Big News but important enough to be of interest to local readers. Written with intelligence and authority and with good local context should succeed. It’s why many hyperlocals are doing so well.

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  • March 11, 2020 at 1:09 pm

    HTFP have tried but to no avail and that tells us all we need to know

    With regards to The Rotherham Advertiser I would have thought any half decent ad rep could convince local businesses to advertise in papers read by 40,000 people each week so maybe the solution to generating revenue is not necessarily via a paywall but ought to be realised by monetising the readership numbers they already have in print.

    Either way I too wish the paper success

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  • March 11, 2020 at 3:58 pm

    i just wonder if viewers will be bothered to sort out the best articles and pay for them. Just might be too much faffing around. But it is worth a try and that newspaper sales figure is impressive indeed.

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  • March 11, 2020 at 4:32 pm

    Anyone who thinks enough people will pay for local news is deluded. I really don’t take pleasure in saying it, but it won’t work… I would delight in being proved wrong, though, however infinitesimally remote that possibility is.

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  • March 12, 2020 at 10:52 am

    I hope this decision is not the last roll of the dice to fund the site or prop up the business as I have to agree with other commenters that the chances of enough people stumping up hard earned cash, no matter how little it might appear to be, is highly unlikely.
    Regional sites, large or small, don’t have enough high quality unique content with the potential to attract pay to read audiences to make paywalls a viable revenue stream.
    With 15,000 copies and a 40,000 reach I too would have thought there were enough readers of the print edition to attract local businesses keen to promote themselves that audience, maybe a print/digital package would increase appeal and attract revenue?

    There may be a few die hard or friendly faces prepared to dip in initially and be seen to support it but whilst I wish the venture success I can’t help but think it’s a non starter.

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