More regional newspapers have announced plans to drop charges in order for readers to access coronavirus-related stories.
Both Iliffe Media and the Newbury Weekly News have announced changes to their online policies in response to the outbreak, with the latter making its e-editions free of charge and dropping its paywall for articles about COVID-19.
The Weekly News and Iliffe Media also plan to launch a new app called IM News, which will allow smartphone or iPad users to digitally access their titles free for a month.
The Weekly News, which is not part of the Iliffe group but was purchased by a joint venture involving the company’s chairman Edward Iliffe last year, is also launching a weekly podcast to keep readers informed, and has launched a campaign aimed at helping the elderly and vulnerable of its patch.
The ‘community support hub’ campaign will be run in conjunction with West Berkshire Council and local charities.
The Weekly News currently charges 20p to read some premium stories on its Newbury Today website via the subscription-free Axate system, but this will not be implemented for articles relating to COVID-19.
Editor Andy Murrill said: “At this time of crisis, the NWN will be a calm and trusted voice, giving you the information you need to best cope with coronavirus. Our new digital services will give people free access to our journalism wherever they are.
“We also urge people to use the community support sub if they need assistance or are offering to become a volunteer. If we all work together we can get West Berkshire through this situation.
“And in these difficult times, please continue to support your local newspaper.
“We need you now more than ever to help us to continue to provide the trusted news we know you value so much.”
Iliffe Media editorial director Ian Carter said: “”We are an independent publisher with deep roots in the community.
“We recognise many of our readers and advertisers will suffer significant disruption to their lives and businesses, and this is a small step to try and help.”
Glasgow-based daily The Herald dropped its paywall for coronavirus-related stories earlier this month, while Portsmouth daily The News, which also operates a paywall, is offering readers free information online via a newsletter and Facebook.
John Howard, Reach circulation director, said: “With thousands of our loyal readers now staying close to home, we felt it was crucial that we offer them a safe way to get their favourite paper.
“This is clearly the time to come together as an industry and confront challenges together and I suspect we’ll continue to see this happen over the coming months.”