Charging for regional papers’ websites -desperate move?

In the latest effort to try to monetise internet versions of the press, Johnson Press, owners of 300 regional papers including the Newsletter, have launched an experiment to charge for the content of 6 papers (but not the former old lady of Lower Donegall St). Ex- Scotsman editor Tim Luckhurst backs the move on rational grounds but doesn’t discuss other models. The Times report quotes Media Guardian’s Emily Bell’s telling point: “If you have content which broadly can be found somewhere else you’re going to really restrict people coming to your website.” The alternative, forcing the big gatekeeping search engines like Google to pay, may be behind the Murdoch moves to start charging – if it actually happens. Can marketing come up with paywalls that don’t drive subscribers mad? Direct charging either by a flat rate or per item for non-specialist news seem non-starters. But with most of the press in financial crisis, desperate measures may be necessary. Adds I see that the Irish News have started a new subscription drive that means you can’t get in to see the headlines and intros. Newshound’s John Fay is similarly frustrated. Let’s hope it’s a temporary blip. The move illustrates the dilemma perfectly.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London