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Six Iliffe Media websites go behind partial paywall in experiment to 'help sustain local news'

Six regional news websites have been put under a partial micro-paywall in the biggest such “experiment” by one publisher with payment platform Axate to date.

Iliffe Media has introduced the scheme to its Stamford Mercury, Grantham Journal, Newark Advertiser, Spalding Today, Lynn News and Fenland Citizen websites in an attempt to “help sustain local news and monetise the content of its websites”.

Breaking news and many other stories on the websites will remain free to read.

But some online content will now be put behind a micro-paywall, including some content that previously only appeared in the titles’ print editions.

It will cost readers of the paid-for content 20p per article, with a capped cost of 60p per week, although they are asked to pay at least £3 into their digital wallet.

Editorial director Ian Carter said the six titles were chosen out of Iliffe’s 15 news websites for the trial “after assessing the various marketplaces across our portfolio”.

“We are fortunate that our all titles have strong brand recognition, and this is particularly the case in the Lincolnshire area which includes the UK’s oldest newspaper, the Stamford Mercury.”

Asked if there are plans to extend the use of Axate across the rest of Iliffe’s websites, Carter said: “It’s an experiment and we will obviously be looking at what we learn over the coming weeks and months before deciding on our next steps.

“One thing that we have always been clear about is that we believe in continuing to invest in quality journalism, and that investment will always go hand in hand with the need to explore paid content models.”

Readers who use the Axate, formerly Agate, paywall will be able to access premium content on all other websites that are signed up to the technology.

Other local news titles signed up include Baylis Media’s Maidenhead Advertiser, Windsor Express and Slough Express and independent titles Newbury Weekly News and Cornwall Reports.

The Cricketer, Sci Fi Now, gossip website Popbitch, politics title Reaction and a US local news website are also currently signed up to Axate, which promises there are “dozens more in the pipeline”.

The New European dropped Axate after deciding it “wasn’t the ideal approach” for its readers, although publisher Archant is in talks about using the service on some of its other titles.

Richard Parkinson, managing director of Iliffe Media Midlands, said: “Our titles have been proudly serving their local communities since 1700s. We are determined to ensure we are still doing so long into the future, with our readers firmly at the centre of everything we do.

“By charging a small amount for certain premium articles, we can invest more in high-quality local journalism that our readers value so highly – and ultimately it makes us even more accountable to our readers.”

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