Johnston’s Local Pay Site Trial Has Been ‘A Disaster’

We could have told Johnston Press, when it announced the plans back in November, that people won’t pay to read local newspapers online. But you can’t begrudge the publisher finding out for sure for itself…

Its three-month pay trial on six local papers sites is now ending, with apparently dismal results. One paper staffer tells HTFP the trial was a “disaster” with subscribers “in single figures”, while another title got subscribers only “in the low double figures“, Press Gazette says.

While some of the sites had pay or registration barriers, others’ articles told readers to go buy the paper after paragraph two.

JP began testing the £5-a-quarter model in December on the Worksop Guardian; the Ripley & Heanor News; the Whitby Gazette; the Northumberland Gazette; Carrick Gazette and the Southern Reporter in Scotland “for us to understand directly the dynamics around consumer paid-for content“.

But the conclusion is clear – charging for local news online is something of a no-go. We don’t know how successful the registration or other elements of the trial were; Johnston is keeping results in-house.

Quoted on JP-owned Scotsman.com in November, CEO John Fry got swept up in Rupert Murdoch’s new bullishness:

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