Express & Star scraps online paywall after nine months

The UK's biggest selling regional newspaper, Wolverhampton's Express & Star, has scrapped its online paywall less than a year after it was introduced.

The paywall was put in place in April 2011 when breaking news remained free-to-access but readers were asked to pay £2.34 a week to receive the printed newspaper alongside full online and mobile apps access.

It also introduced a digital-only package but said that due to tax laws the £2.34 price tag would also incur VAT, bringing the cost to £2.81 per week.

Phil Inman, managing director of Express & Star publisher Midland News Association, today confirmed the online subscription package had now been scrapped.

'The 24 premium service has been withdrawn following a review of the MNA's digital platforms,'he said.

"New digital newspaper apps for iPad and iPhone users were launched this week as part of online enhancements planned for 2012.

"The feedback from customers using the new app has been positive. Further projects are in development."

The new iPad and iPhone apps cost £1.49 a week or £3.99 a month.

Inman formally took over as MD on 1 January, although he joined the company in September after departing as Northcliffe's North East and Midlands managing director following a company restructure.

In the first six months of 2011 MNA saw a year-on-year increase in monthly users of 40.9 per cent to 976,980, with daily visitors up 35.8 per cent to 54,859, according to figures from ABC.

Despite introducing the paywall Expressandstar.com saw an increase in both daily (up 37.7 per cent to 40,528) and monthly users (up 43.7 per cent to 683,914).

Its print edition suffered a 7.4 per cent drop in circulation in the first six months of the year to 113,174.

In December MNA announced plans to cut up to 50 staff, eight months after it announced 90 redundancies across the Express & Star and Shropshire Star titles.

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