As paywalls go up across the web, most notably those implemented by the Times and Sunday Times last week, one comes tumbling down, reports Press Gazette. Johnston Press, a UK regional publisher with over 300 titles across the country, ended its paywall experiment this week.
In November of 2009, Johnston Press implemented various paid content strategies on four of its English titles and two Scottish titles. Some websites offered "teaser" content that suggested the reader buy the paper version to finish the article, others required user registration, and a few titles erected a paywall, allowing readers 3 months of paid content for £5.
Johnston Press' annual report, published earlier this month, gave an optimistic outlook on the ability of JP papers to implement a paywall successfully.
"As our content on local communities is often unique, we believe that we are well positioned to test whether users would be prepared to pay for their content delivered through local websites," it said.
Though Johnston Press declined to comment publicly on the end of the trial, a Press Gazette source claims that paid subscribers numbered in the low double-digits. This failed experiment may halt a company-wide switch to paid content, Hold the Front Page (HTFP) reports.
"The switch to a paid-for model is part of a broader roll-out across Johnston Press and in line with industry moves in this area to find a sustainable business model going forward," says a company memo obtained by HTFP before the paywall experiment was implemented.
In some cases, as with Financial Times, paywalls have proven to be a lucrative business move; in others, as with the Times paywall, it is too soon to tell if they will be successful. The new business model for news production is an unfinished puzzle, but Johnston Press' failure provides us with a valuable piece of the whole.