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Flagship daily launches ad-free ‘premium’ service for paying subscribers

Sarah Lester 2022A leading regional daily has launched a new “premium” paid-for service for its online readers in a fresh attempt to monetise its digital offering.

The Manchester Evening News has announced the launch of its new MEN Premium app, which will allow users to read stories advertisement-free, among other features.

It also offers readers a twice-daily news digest, a weekly round-up of long reads and “best bits” called ‘The Edit’ and the ability to listen to articles via a text-to-speech feature.

Four puzzles a day will appear on the app too, while paying customers are also given access to exclusive money-saving offers and discounts.

The scheme, which is presently only available for iOS devices, costs either £1.99 a month or £19.99 for an annual subscription.

While not a paywall, the app’s launch represents a fresh attempt by MEN publisher Reach plc to monetise its readers directly.

Reach previously experimented with an online paywall trial at the Huddersfield Daily Examiner that came to an end after five months in February 2020.

The same year, the Liverpool Echo offered the option for readers to make a voluntary contribution towards its journalism.

In a piece announcing the new app’s launch, the MEN said: “Our free iPhone app already features strong live news coverage, What’s On content, powerful reads about all aspects of life in Greater Manchester, and our hyperlocal MyBrands news service.

“These are all brought to you by a team totally committed to our region. And if you want to stay free, we’re not touching that, because we’re committed to providing a free service to the whole of Greater Manchester.”

However, the newspaper went on to note the new scheme would give members “even more than our usual free app”.

It added: “For less than £2 a month, you’ll get four puzzles a day, with leaderboards, saving, and checking answers if you get stuck, a twice-daily news digest of the stories you need to read, The Edit – a weekly round-up of long reads and best bits – and exclusive money-saving offers and discounts.

“Plus, with MEN Premium, you can listen to articles. Our new text-to-speech feature will read out articles in the app, so you can catch up with the news when you’re on the go.

“And, best of all, it’s ad-free. With MEN Premium, there are no more adverts in the app, giving you an uninterrupted experience.”

MEN editor Sarah Lester said: “Many things have changed in the MEN’s 154 years, but at our core is still the desire to tell the stories that matter to the readers we serve.

“We’re always looking for new ways to bring people information in a way that suits their lives, and we hope this new app membership scheme does just that.”

Customer growth director James Skelton added: “Our customers are consuming local and national news from us via multiple devices and products, but we know our apps are fundamental to our most loyal readers, who want a seamless, uninterrupted ad-free reading experience with additional features such as curated content and personalisation.

“We have launched with a number of key features initially on the Manchester Evening News but aim to grow and expand our Premium offering in late 2022 and the new year.”