Reach ends first regional paywall experiment but plans to try again on other news sites

Reach has ended its first paywall experiment on one of its regional news websites, making all of its content free again despite claiming a “large number” of people were happy to pay.

Examiner Live, the website of the Huddersfield Daily Examiner, began trialling the micro-paywall in September.

Some articles cost 25p each up to a maximum of £1 per week through payments platform Axate, which allows users to put some money in a digital “wallet” and pay per article.

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But many articles, including breaking news, traffic and travel and some court and crime stories, remained free to read.

The experiment ended yesterday, with all content becoming free again, as editor Wayne Ankers (pictured) said it had enabled Examiner journalists to learn about their audience and what type of stories were most valued.

In an announcement to readers, he said: “It has been a really interesting experiment and it showed to us that a large number of people living and working in Huddersfield and Kirklees are happy to pay for a news, entertainment and information service.”

Reach declined to share figures on how many people paid for Examiner content during the trial, but said it was “encouraged” by the result and planned to try a paywall on more of its news websites.

A spokesperson said: “While Huddersfield is no longer the right spot to continue the casual payment experiment as we expand our local coverage in the region, we’re keen to continue trialling the service elsewhere in the Reach portfolio this year.”

Ankers said the experiment was ending because of Reach’s plan to launch new websites for Yorkshire, with Examiner Live set to be “at the heart of these expansion plans”.

Seven new “Live” branded websites are being launched this year, including in North Yorkshire, Bradford and Sheffield.

Ankers told readers if they have any money left in their digital wallets they can use it on other sites that use Axate, such as Popbitch, Sci Fi Now, The Cricketer, rugby website RL News, and about 13 other local news websites.

The Examiner Live micro-paywall was the first to be trialled on any news website owned by Reach, which is the UK’s largest commercial publisher. It owns the Mirror, Express and Star titles and more than 150 regional titles.

Ankers said in September that “continuing to giving away our content for free is difficult to sustain” despite reaching record numbers of readers on the website.

Reach rival JPI Media began trialling metered paywalls last year, first at the Blackpool Gazette and Portsmouth News and later extending the system to The Scotsman and Sheffield Star.

The paywalls launched with a trial offer of £1 per month for three months, rising to £8 per month thereafter.

Picture: Reach/Andy Lambert

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Comments

3 thoughts on “Reach ends first regional paywall experiment but plans to try again on other news sites”

  1. With the editor being so cautious/ cagey around the numbers we are left to interpret this ourselves.

    “…A large number of people”
    = Hardly any
    “…what type of stories were most valued” = Free ones

  2. This unmitigated trial paywall disaster emphasises how publishers such as Reach vastly overestimate the importance the public put on their content and how they fool themselves into thinking the size of their online audience numbers is a measure of success or popularity, it isn’t.
    This embarrassment proves that it’s impossible to monetise online regional news through pay to read, subscriptions or online/ sponsored advertising,what it does show is if you give it away people might take a look at it, if you ask them to pay for it they won’t.
    If it was in any way successful Reach would have let it run the term of it’s trial period,not stopped it part way in, my guess is the fallout from advertisers and drop off in traffic numbers was worse than expected so the U turn was made to limit further losses.
    Either that or the company quickly called it quits once they saw how bad the uptake for this was.

    Quantity is no substitute for quality and when editors,or whoever is responsible for online output,accept that much of their content is weak,irrelevant and old news recycled and actively does something about it they may have an outside chance of being able to monetise it, as it stands currently they have no chance as this short lived exercise proved
    What adds further insult to injury is when Wayne Ankers tries to gloss over this public vote of no confidence in his paper and brand as being a useful lesson learnt therefore something to celebrate when the only thing he can learn from this is the realisation that the Huddersfield public won’t pay to read his output, nothing else.

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