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September 5, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 8:18am

Reach launches first paywall trial on regional website

By Charlotte Tobitt

The UK’s largest regional publisher has begun its first paywall experiment on a regional newspaper, saying giving away the title’s content for free online has become “difficult to sustain”.

Reach, which owns the Mirror, Express and Star national papers and more than 150 regional titles, has begun trialing a micro-paywall on Examiner Live, the website of the Huddersfield Daily Examiner.

The website is using payments platform Axate, formerly Agate, which allows readers to put money into a digital “wallet” and pay a small fee per article.

Some articles, including breaking news, traffic and travel information and some court and crime stories, will remain free of charge, Reach has said.

Others will cost 25p, with a cap of £1 per week. Readers who support the website by using Axate will also receive a new daily newsletter.

In a message to readers announcing the launch yesterday, Examiner editor Wayne Ankers (pictured) wrote: “For years our customers have paid for a newspaper but people have become accustomed to receiving news online for free. However our journalism costs money to produce.

“Thanks to our website we are reaching more people than ever before each day but continuing to give away our content for free is difficult to sustain. That is why we have launched a trial with Axate…”

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Press Gazette understands there is no planned end date for the trial, which could be expanded to other Reach titles if it proves successful, although the publisher does not think a micro-paywall would work for all its titles.

Ed Walker, senior editor for Reach regionals, said: “It’s essential that local journalism keeps learning and adapting, and in that spirit we look forward to working with Axate, the Examiner Live team, and our readers while we trial this micropayments service.”

Readers who use the Axate paywall will be able to pay for premium content on all other websites that are signed up to the technology.

They include six local news websites from Iliffe Media, three from Baylis Media , and independent titles Newbury Weekly News and Cornwall Reports.

The Cricketer, Sci Fi Now, gossip website Popbitch and politics title Reaction are also on Axate, which promises there are “dozens more in the pipeline”.

The New European dropped Axate after deciding it “wasn’t the ideal approach” for its readers, although publisher Archant is in talks about using the service on some of its other titles.

Rival regional publisher JPI Media is also currently trialling metered paywalls on a number of its titles.

In May Blackpool Gazette and Portsmouth News were the first to trial a subscription model, with a launch offer of £1 per month for three months rising to £8 per month thereafter.

The Sheffield Star is the latest JPI title to introduce the model, telling readers last night that “quality journalism costs money”.

“Our new subscription is focused on helping you stay in the know and a better online news service,” Star editor Nancy Fielder wrote.

“We have listened to what our online readers want and this means fewer advertisements, access to our newsletters and free access to the app version of The Star.”

Picture: Reach/Andy Lambert

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