Today is a big day. Not only is it some huge online shopping day, but regional newspaper firm Johnston Press has switched on its online pay wall and is now charging readers to access content on some of its websites.
In all six weekly newspapers are in the Johnston Press pilot news of which broke last week, but not its bigger and better known dailies like The Scotsman and the Yorkshire Post.
The papers involved in the pilot are the Whitby Gazette, Northumberland Gazette, Worksop Guardian, Ripley and Heanor News and two Scottish titles: The Southern Reporter and Carrick Gazette. Oddly only the first two in that list have the story that they pay wall goes up today on their home page.
Here’s what The Northumberland Gazette is saying on its website:
“The Northumberland Gazette has been chosen to pioneer a new way of accessing its premium content online. Its parent group Johnston Press has selected three of its weekly titles to offer its news, sport and other ‘live’ content only to subscribers.
“From today (November 30), readers of the Gazette website will only be able to view the first few words of a story before they will be asked to pay £5 quarterly for all premium content on the site. They will then receive access to the whole site for three months, which still works out at less than the cost of the paper.”
Clearly, the particular payment model is going to vary from title to title; from weekly to daily, to regional and to national, but for this market £5 a quarter (5.5p a day) seems like a good price point. To me at least and it is going to be interesting to see what readers of these local titles think of it. And more importantly whether they will in sufficient numbers pay the modest sum being asked to access the website of their local newspaper.
There aren’t any comments on the stories announcing the move to a pay wall and none elsewhere that I could find so there is no real way of knowing what readers think. Clearly, Johnston Press will have done local market research and had enough positive feedback to convince it that these markets would (in some form) support its move.