JPI Media has revealed plans for a paywall trial at two of its regional daily titles in the face of falling advertising revenues.
In an email to staff, seen by Press Gazette, JPI Media editor-in-chief Jeremy Clifford said the metered paywalls would launch with a trial offer of £1 per month for three months, rising to £8 per month thereafter.
Blackpool Gazette and Portsmouth News are the first two to trial the new subscription model, according to the email, which will offer readers five free articles per week before prompting them to subscribe.
In his email to staff, Clifford said the new subscription model would give readers an “enhanced online experience” that would mean fewer adverts and access to newsletters and app versions of publications.
He said the company was looking to build a “sustainable business”, adding: “We are now one step closer on our journey through the launch of a subscription model that will help us develop a new income stream, while reducing our exposure to falling advertising revenues.”
A JPI Media spokesperson said the trial would help the company to understand “the propensity for users to subscribe on the two titles involved” and that others would follow.
“The results will help define what our subscription strategy should be across the rest of the business,” they said.
In his email, Clifford also said that financial support from readers allowed “journalists the freedom to report and investigate the important stories of our time”, adding that JPI Media “don’t expect to see results overnight”.
A senior source at the publisher, which has some 200 newsbrands including the Yorkshire Post and national daily the i newspaper, told Press Gazette they were sceptical of the paywall plans.
The source said: “Our papers are getting worse. That is no reflection of the journalists who work on them, but on the collapse in the number of staff – the company is currently in the process of cutting 10 per cent of its journalists.
“How they expect to get people to pay for something which used to be free, whilst simultaneously making that product worse, is a mystery.”
Press Gazette first revealed JPI Media’s plans to trial paywalls in March, when Clifford told staff they were one of “quite a few” possible options being considered in the face of poor advertising revenues.
The roll-out has been announced a month after staff were told that the publisher would cut up to 70 editorial staff across its titles.
JPI Media has also shuttered offices and introduced a ‘digital first’ pilot newsroom restructure since the start of the year.
The company is owned by four former Johnston Press bondholders who bought the publisher’s assets in a pre-pack administration deal last year.