18 November 2009

Paywalls and Social Media at the Society of Editors 2009 conference

Could regional news sites charge too?

One theme that dominated the recent Society of Editors conference was how to make paid content work. Whilst national newspapers look at possible dates for setting up paywalls on their news sites, regional papers were also considering getting in on the act.

Holdthefrontpage has reported how Worcester News editor Kevin Ward asked the question as to whether regionals could ever charge for their content, at a seminar on the future of the industry.

In a discussion that featured both national and regional editors as well as head of Google UK Matt Brittin, Mr Ward put forward that regional news was a sufficiently “niche” product to make the charging model work successfully.

According to the website, Mr Ward told the conference: "What we produce is niche. Nobody else sits in our courts every day. Nobody else scrutinises our public bodies.”

Mr Ward continued by asking whether, as a result, regional papers had "more opportunity to charge for the web" than their national counterparts.

Mr Brittin responded by saying: "Looking for local news is one of the biggest activities online. There are big opportunities there."

The Times: Not "if" but "when"

The Guardian states how James Harding, the editor of the Times, gave the clearest indication yet of how News International is going to start charging for its journalism online.

Confirming that The Times will indeed start charging for content, he told the conference: "From spring of next year we will start charging for the digital edition of the Times. We're working on the exact pricing model, but we'd charge for a day's paper, for a 24-hour sign-up to the Times. We'll also establish a subscription price as well."

According to the Guardian he also warned against the idea of micro-payments for individual articles.

He said: "You have to be very careful with article-only economics," he said. "You will find yourself writing a lot more about Britney Spears and a lot less about Tamils in northern Sri Lanka."

6,200 comments following transfer day coverage

Social media was another key area of discussion at the conference, according to reports on Holdthefrontpage. One editor who championed its use was Hull Daily Mail boss John Meehan, who described how their use of it to cover transfer deadline day for the local football team Hull City, led to an “avalance of interactivity.”

He stated how the paper’s use of live blogging functionality and social media, as part of their coverage, led to 6,200 comments from readers – one every five seconds.

"The immediacy of the web has made timed newspaper editions obsolete," Mr Meehan told the conference.

Holdthefront page reports how fellow panellist Martin Wright, associate editor of NWN Media which publishes the Leader in North Wales, said Twitter was now the tenth biggest referrer to its main website, leaderlive.co.uk.

Trinity Mirror head of multimedia David Higgerson said the Liverpool Echo had used Twitter to break the news of the result of the trial of the killers of Rhys Jones.

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