Express and Star ed sets out regionals' digital challenge

The editor of the Wolverhampton Express & Star has admitted the biggest challenge facing regional newspapers is attempting to make their digital operations profitable.

In January the Express & Star, Britain’s biggest selling regional newspaper, announced it was scrapping its online paywall just nine months after it was introduced.

The paywall was put in place in April 2011 – when breaking news remained free-to-access but readers were asked to pay £2.34 a week to receive the printed newspaper alongside full online and mobile apps access.

But after a review of its publisher MNA’s digital operations the company instead opted for a different sdtrategy – launching apps for iPad and iPhone at a cost of £1.49 a week or £3.99 a month.

‘The past few years have been extremely painful for regional newspapers in terms of declining revenues, in terms of the switch from the printed word to online,’editor Adrian Faber told the Leveson Inquiry yesterday.

He added that journalists were now ‘having to work harder, quicker, cleverer, and there is increasing pressure”.

‘There’s no doubt about it,’he added. ‘There is increasing pressure, and the problem that all newspapers face is having to resource websites, which we’re having to do journalistically, and at the same time attempt to make money.

‘And that is proving the difficult area. Everybody at the moment is wrestling with how you operate credible online services, online, on your phone, on your iPad, and attempt to make money.

‘That is crucial – that is the crux of what the economics of regional newspapers are now about: maintaining the newspaper and at the same time attempting to turn the digital operation into a profitable operation.”

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