Johnston Press websites will either ask users to pay £5 for a three-month subscription to read the full articles, or direct them to buy the newspapers.
Johnston is the first regional publisher in the UK to trial asking readers to pay for its online news. Source: BBC
I can accept that regional papers have a different business model to the dailies, but at the same time it occurs to me that regional’s are probably more exposed to the Internet than their national counterparts.
Reading through a local paper you will not find ‘breaking news’ nor will you find ‘exclusive’ content, but instead you read stories that are valuable to a local community.
You will be hearing a lot more about community and specifically ‘Local’ as search engine giants google and Bing pursue this market with more vigour in the coming months.
Ever wonder how yell.com is doing? When was the last time you picked up a copy of the yellow pages? Exactly, local business search has moved online and into search engines.
With local people using search engines to search for local products, where is the scope for local businesses to advertise in local papers? Advertisers have always gone where the market is.
How can charging for content save a regional paper? I don’t believe it can, if anything it will alienate your existing customer base and at some point a decision needs to be made on whether you are a web publisher or a print publisher – you can’t be both!
Let’s take a step back. Do regional / local papers need to be online in the first place? Maybe not, certainly if you are a weekly publication where is the value being online? At least as a print only publication you can be more exclusive and focus entirely on your core market, thus building a new generation of readers and maximising advertising returns.
So, what of Johnston Press? I wouldn’t pay a fiver a month for local content, and I’m sure some if not all of their readers will feel the same. By erecting a pay wall around local content all you are doing is driving your readers to visit your competitors, who will be smaller and more targeted and who may well offer a more informative local news and entertainment service.
Did I mention they were free to use?