News Websites End Subscription Charge Trial

(BBC) – ONE OF THE UK’S BIGGEST local newspaper groups has stopped charging readers to read news articles on six of its websites after a four-month trial.

Johnson Press was the first regional newspaper to introduce a fee to read full articles. It cost £5 for a three-month subscription.

Sites in the pilot scheme included the Worksop Guardian, the Ripley & Heanor News and the Whitby Gazette.

Whether online readers will pay for news is a topic of fierce debate.

With revenues declining, news groups are looking for new ways to raise money.

In 2009, Johnston press saw its overall revenues fall by almost 20%. Advertising revenue was 27% lower than the previous year.

The charging trial was part of efforts to create new sources of revenue while cutting printing costs and staff numbers. It also involved the Carrick Gazette, the Southern Reporter, and the Northumberland Gazette.

In its annual report earlier this year, Johnston said that as its local news content was “unique”, it felt it was “well positioned to test whether users would be prepared to pay for their content”.

A spokesperson told the BBC that “the trial was conducted for internal study purposes” and said it was always intended to be a short trial. The company would not comment on whether the pilot had been a success.

News International, which owns the Times and Sunday Times, recently said it would start charging for access to its news websites from June this year. Users will pay £1 for a day’s access and £2 for a week’s subscription.

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