Editor of UK's top-selling regional daily says metered paywall is best website model

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The UK’s biggest selling regional newspaper is looking into adopting a metered paywall for online readers.

Wolverhampton Express and Star editor (and Midlands News Association editorial director) Keith Harrison has revealed that after visiting several US newspapers last year — the New York Times, the Star and Tribune in Minnesota and the Deseret News in Salt Lake City — he was impressed with the success of their online subscription models.

He told In Publishing: "What they’re finding is that subscription works very well, and we’re now looking at various subscription models…

"My personal view is that a metered paywall is likely to be the most successful model for newspaper websites.”

The Newsquest-owned Herald in Glasgow has pioneered a metered paywall, asking readers to subscribe in order to read more than six stories a month. After three years its paywall has managed to attract 10,000 paying subscribers.

A metered paywall has also been a success for the Financial Times, which now claims to have more than 400,000 digital subscribers.

The Telegraph went behing a metered paywall in April last year, asking readers to subscribe in order to read more than 20 articles per month. It has yet to make any statement about subscriber numbers.

The Express and Star was the best selling regional newspaper in the UK the second half of 2013 with an average of 82,448 sales a day.

But in common with other titles, print circulation is in sharp decline year on year – down 12.1 per cent.

According to Steve Dyson’s In Publishing report, the title's website reaches some 1.5m unique visitors per month.

The Express and Star has traditionally had a high-story count per page and a late print deadline allowing readers of the evening paper to read that day’s news.

But Harrison said all that is changing: “We’ve got a big digital audience, so let’s serve them with breaking news online, using the paper for more detailed analysis, a lean-back read.”

In common with other regional dailies, the Express and Star is moving to overnight printing (becoming a morning paper). The change happens on Monday, 21 July.

The move to overnight printing was announced in April with the loss of 76 jobs (12 of those in editoria).

After the cutbacks, Harris said the Express and Star in Wolverhampton and the Shropshire Star will still have 145 editorial staff.

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