Johnston Press, parent company to the Isle of Man Newspapers, is introducing subscriptions fees on their websites in a pilot scheme starting next week.
The Worksop Guardian, Ripley & Heanor News, Northumberland Gazette, Whitby Gazette (all in England), and the Southern Reporter and Carrick Gazette (in Scotland) will restrict access to non-subscribers, in an attempt to create revenues from their websites.
The papers will allow access to the homepage of each paper, but stories away from the main page will require a subscription of £5 for a three month trial. Johnston Press says it will review whether to extend the scheme past this date and to other sites depending on the pilot’s success. So far, there has been no announcement concerning the Isle of Man Examiner, Manx Independent or the Isle of Man Courier.
Rupert Murdoch has been threatening to do much the same with the web content published by his news companies around the world. It’s already been introduced at the Wall Street Journal.
Will it work? I do hope so. I hate to think about the news media and publishing companies being on their knees, unable to attract advertisers or to sell hard copy newspapers.
But local and regional newspapers are going to have to raise their game if this going to work. People are not going to part with hard cash for cheque presentation stories or for information they can get free elsewhere. They will pay for quality reporting and exclusive content.
The eyes of the news media industry will be on Johnston Press to see how this pilot plays out. If it works, we’ll see a bunch of publishers introducing the paid subscription model before long.