Newsquest has introduced a digital subscription model across all of its daily newspaper websites, putting up a paywall to readers, but will keep all coronavirus and breaking news stories free to read.
After seeing “encouraging results” with metered paywalls on a small number of sites, including the Northern Echo and Herald, in recent years, the regional publisher has rolled the model out to a further 20 titles.
They encompass all of its daily regionals, such as the Brighton Argus and Oxford Mail, as well as weeklies the Hereford Times, News Shopper, Watford Observer, Warrington Guardian and Bucks Free Press.
Readers will be given the option to pay £4.99 per month or £52 per year for unlimited access to articles, with up to 80 per cent less adverts and the ability to leave comments and sign up to email newsletters.
They are also told the subscription will “help fund the vital, trusted local coverage that we provide and our communities need”.
Newsquest editorial development director Toby Granville said: “We continue to believe that the online local news model will be predominantly a free to access one for the foreseeable future.
“However, we have been running digital subscriptions across a number of our sites for some time with encouraging results, and we will now be extending this approach to 20 more large sites.”
Granville added that non-subscribers will be asked to register with their email address after reading 20 articles per month, and to subscribe after reaching 40 articles.
He said this would mean Newsquest’s local news websites “remain the number one trusted community hub — typically read by more than 70 per cent of the local population — whilst also developing new revenues and new opportunities from data”.
Newsquest’s new digital subscriptions are being launched as part of its We’re There With You — Please Be There With Us scheme, which is also offering free home deliveries of its newspapers for six weeks.
The scheme has been launched as Newsquest faces a decline in both advertising revenues and sales figures due to the coronavirus pandemic – a picture seen across the wider news industry.
Press Gazette analysis shows that more than 500 publications – mainly local and regional newspapers – have made, or face cuts due to Covid-19.
Soon after the UK coronavirus lockdown began, Archant began asking readers for donations, saying the current crisis has made the situation “exceptionally acute”, but that it is a “long-term issue that must be solved if local journalism is to thrive”.
Reach launched its first micro-paywall experiment on the Huddersfield Examiner website last year but ended it after five months, deciding the area was “no longer the right spot to continue the casual payment experiment as we expand our local coverage in the region”.
The publisher said it planned to try out the model on more of its sites this year.