Page last updated at 13:24 GMT, Thursday, 1 April 2010 14:24 UK

News websites end subscription charge trial

Newspaper printing press (file photo)
Johnston Press is looking for new ways to raise revenue as circulations decline

One of the UK's biggest local newspaper groups has stopped charging readers to read news articles on some of its websites after a four-month trial.

Johnston 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 were the Southern Reporter and the Whitby and Northumberland Gazettes.

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.

The pilot also involved the Carrick Gazette, the Worksop Guardian and Ripley and Heanor News, who did not charge, but instead offered only a summary of each story and then encouraged readers to buy a copy of the paper to read the rest.

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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