Johnston Press starts rollout of new websites

Johnston Press has begun rolling out new versions of its websites – and not before time.

HTFP reports that The Grantham Journal and Peterborough’s Evening Telegraph are ‘both sporting the revamped online offerings and inviting readers to have their say on the new websites.”

Johnston Press has long been playing catch-up with some, frankly, poor digital versions of its newspapers. The revamp of its websites was long-overdue and the company had recognised it as such.

In last week’s end-of-year results, Johnston Press was quite forthright about how its digital strategy had progressed; saying a ‘change of philosophy’was needed in some parts.

It said: ‘During the year, the decision was made to cease development of our own internet solutions and replace some offerings by purchasing software or licensing complete solutions.

‘A deal was concluded with the Daily Mail Group Trust (DMGT) to utilise their Jobsite software as the basis for an improved jobs offering.

‘This change of philosophy has enabled us to move rapidly, upgrade our technology and provide customers with a better solution.

‘A new editorial content management system (CMS) has been purchased to replace in-house developed software. The editorial system was implemented in two of our divisions by the year-end.

‘Similarly, our first upgraded website utilising the new content management system is available for customers to use. Both projects will be rolled out across the entire business during 2010.”

The results were also telling as it indicated the reasoning behind Johnston Press’s decision in November to experiment with paywalls on six of its small newspapers.

‘There has been considerable comment during the past year around the issue of users paying for news content on websites which they currently access for free.

‘As our content on local communities is often unique, we believe that we are well positioned to test whether users would be prepared to pay for their content delivered through local websites.

‘A small scale test involving six of our local websites began in December. The test is designed to help our understanding of the impact of our free digital offerings on print and whether customers are prepared to pay for news.

‘It is our belief that the issue is not only the willingness of customers to pay for news content but also the ease of payment which particular mechanisms provide.

‘No decision has been made to roll-out paywalls across our sites but we remain open to developments in this area.”

But technological innovation could come at a cost for Johnston Press as the company is still facing a region-wide staff revolt over the implementation of the Atex content management system to a number of its papers.

Watch this space on that one…

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