Online local news starts charging

30 November 2009

One of the UK's largest newspaper firms - The Johnston Press - has begun charging for access to online content on six of its titles. These websites stumbling up with an outstretched hand and asking users to pay £5 for a three-month subscription or buy actual newspapers from a shop.

This trial is presumably spurred on by the news that Rupert 'Face Like A Drunk's Liver' Murdoch is planning on something similar to help generate money in an ailing print business.

Okay. So which papers are in? Well, readers of the Worksop Guardian, the Ripley & Heanor News, The Northumberland Gazette, the Carrick Gazette, Southern Reporter and the Whitby Gazette need to start tossing pennies into a virtual cup. That said, if you actually click on one of their top online stories, you're not allowed to read it but then you're given no option to subscribe either - instead you're told to buy some dead wood with print on.

Of course, there are titles that already do this sort of thing (The FT for one), but this is certainly the first time it seems to be getting rolled out across the board.

This sort of thing can only work in certain circumstances it seems. For example, there's no point charging for national news because you can always nix the broadsheets and watch the TV news instead... or read the decent news blogs that are out there. However, local news is a different kettle of fish (incidentally, the lead story in today's Whitby Gazette is about a kettle of fish).

"Once you start restricting access on the websites, if you have content that can broadly be found somewhere else, then you really restrict the number of people coming to websites," the Guardian's director of digital content Emily Bell told the BBC. "I think it's great that people are experimenting with lots of different models because undoubtedly we need to find more money in the market," she added.

However, with more and more people able to access the internet via their mobiles... and as long as the BBC is free to access, then it seems that the local newspaper could be in danger of dying a very slow and painful death. In theory, it could be an interesting moment in history... in reality, it's shit that loads of people could lose their jobs.

And that's what's currently happening in the world of media. The Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) cut 1,000 jobs, the owner of the Manchester Evening News cut 150 jobs and closed offices, London Lite free paper vanished and the Observer Standard Newspapers entered administration. These are tough times indeed for mediafolk and these attempts to charge for content could be the making-or-breaking of many titles. Could this be the death of Trad. Arr. Media?



  • Mark C.
    It's an ill wind.
  • Nobby
    I doubt they have much online advertising revenue to lose, so go for it. If local people want you, and will pay for you, then you will survive. Otherwise, it is just a matter of time before you die out. Personally, I don't go for local newspapers. I moved from the south to the north just over ten years ago, and to this day have not bought a local paper. I get enough local news on TV, and I really couldn't care about local issues in neighbouring villages or towns, or what the kids in their schools and scout groups have been up to.
  • Spark
    Bollocks to that.
  • Brian
    One of the locals (Worksop Guardian) are doing this. Seem to have not yet realised they are a bag of shite and no one in their right mind will pay for the crap they spout.
  • Quietus
    What with all of the bullshit they print in the 'news'papers, especially 'celebrity' gossip, and constant war, I now have one more reason to not bother reading the papers. Thanks, guys.
  • raptorcigs
    £5 to read lies and watch shit adds they can kiss my fat dino arse
  • virtuallypriceless
    The link to the paper was useful, not local to me but useful. thanks.
  • Bunt
    I like how their logo is yet the url is
  • andy y.
    It staggers me that local newspapers pretty much give away their content.Circulation of my local rag,the evening gazette,is down but readership is up (as we all read it for free now). I,m sure if they put a paywall circulation would go up and the sad expats would pay up. The last 10-15 years of free news are over
  • vaga222
    "The last 10-15 years of free news are over" All it takes is one person to scrape the content from their site and put it up on their own, then that person (with little operating costs) can add their own ads on the site and make money for themselves.
  • Brian
    # Posted by vaga222 | November 30th, 2009 at 7:34 pm "All it takes is one person to scrape the content from their site and put it up on their own, then that person (with little operating costs) can add their own ads on the site and make money for themselves." DUH, my name is Brian. You would get your sorry ass dragged through the courts for every last penny you had.
  • vaga222
    Who would sue you if you didn't live in the same country? I'm sure there are plenty of Russian web admins without work during the rescission :)
  • Nonce-Sense
    Buy local newspapers? Since when do people buy locals? Almost everywhere I've lived they've been delivered free of charge. (with the exception of the MEN, Liverpool Echo and I think that kentish express)

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