Online local news starts charging
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?