Johnston Press confirms paywall trial on six weeklies

Johnston Press has confirmed that it will erect paywalls on six of its weekly newspaper websites from next Monday as part of a small trial to assess market impact of charging for online content.

Four English newspapers will take part in the three month trial – they are: the Worksop Guardian, the Ripley & Heanor News, the Whitby Gazette and the Northumberland Gazette.

They will be joined by Scottish weeklies, the Carrick Gazette and the Southern Reporter.

Lori Cunningham, Johnston Press digital strategy director, told Press Gazette the publisher had no immediate plans to start charging for web access on its flagship titles, the Scotsman and the Yorkshire Post.

She said: “Our intention is to just get an understanding of what the customer dynamic is around paid-for content.

“At this stage it’s just a trail for us to understand what is happening; we envisage that it will last for three months.”

Reports yesterday quoting a leaked internal Johnston Press memo suggested that readers will be prevented from viewing content beyond the homepage unless they sign up for a £5 three-month subscription – the equivalent of 40p per week.

Cunningham, a former AOL executive, said the publisher had not set any reader of revenue targets for the trial.

She added: “We have not set specific thresholds; it is just an opportunity for us to learn about what the consumer are or are not willing to do.”

Holdthefrontpage reported yesterday that Johnston Press managers told staff the company intends to roll out the paid-for model across the country in an attempt to monetise its online content.

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