An independent local news website in Cornwall has introduced a pay-as-you-go paywall alongside its existing subscription package to give readers “more control over what they choose to read”.
Cornwall Reports was launched by editor Graham Smith two years ago as a paid-for rival to Reach’s Cornwall Live, where he worked until he was sacked for failing to “share the aims and values” of the company’s new online product as he developed his own paid-for website idea.
Smith started with a subscription model charging readers £30 per year (with no free articles for non-subscribers) but decided last month to add a pay-as-you-go scheme, pioneered by virtual wallet Agate, to make its stories accessible to more readers.
He said: “We specialise in serious, high-quality journalism, and that kind of journalism has value. It is not unreasonable to ask readers to pay for it.
“The new pay-as-you go feature might appeal to readers who want to read only certain parts of the site, such as our coverage of Cornwall Council, or of the NHS. But for readers who want more than four or five articles per week, it will still be better value to take out a regular subscription.”
Cornwall Reports, which remains ad free, now asks anyone attempting to read one of its articles to either choose a subscription package or pay 20p per article up to a maximum of five articles, or £1, per week, after which content stays free until the following week.
Once a user has signed into Agate and topped up their wallet with a minimum of £3, they can continue to read without entering their details each time.
Other websites signed up to Agate include The New European and Complete France, both published by Archant, gossip news website Popbitch, political analysis publisher Reaction, and cricket magazine The Cricketer.
The Hackney Gazette, also owned by Archant, put up a micro-paywall last year by asking ad-blocking readers to whitelist its website or pay up to 99p for a day’s ad-free online access.
Smith said: “Just over two years ago Cornwall Reports became the first local news website in Britain to insist that journalism has value and to put the future of what we do firmly in the hands of our readers.
“With no annoying adverts, pop-ups or data acquisition on our news pages, we have continued to serve a steady diet of hard-hitting exclusives and investigations.
“However, while our annual subscriptions have held steady at £30, working out at less than 9p per day, we know that some people do not like paying regular subscriptions or would prefer to pick and choose the content they read from a variety of outlets.”
In a statement, Agate chief executive Dominic Young said: “We’re thrilled that Cornwall Reports has signed up with Agate to offer customers more flexibility with an option to pay per article.
“Agate was created because we believe that being able to produce quality journalism in return for a fair price, and being able to pay effortlessly, is the template for commercially successful local news.
“Cornwall Reports are, not for the first time, pioneers and are leading the way for other local publishers to follow.”