Paywall is working for HeraldScotland as online subscribers overtake number of print subscribers

Growing: HeraldScotland's digital subscribers are increasing

Subscribers to HeraldScotland, which sits behind a metered paywall, have overtaken the number of Herald and Sunday Herald print subscribers, the Herald & Times Group has revealed.

The Glasgow-based group, which is part of the Newsquest stable, now has 5,600 subscribers to its digital version of the regional Herald newspaper, a figure topping the combined subscriber total of 5,500 for the print edition and sister paper the Sunday Herald.

HeraldScotland sits behind a metered paywall, and Newsquest’s regional managing director, Tim Blott, said the strategy was clearly working for them.

“The interesting aspect of online news is whether people are prepared to pay for content or not, and our evidence so far seems to show that people are prepared to pay,” he said.

“What we see is that there is still a large number of customers who want the printed product, but obviously there’s a growing proportion who want an online product. Some of our audience want both; it’s the convenience factor.”

Blott admitted that the Herald titles have suffered a decline in print circulation alongside other UK papers – the Herald has a current circulation of around 40,000, according to Blott – but said that the majority of the Herald & Times group advertising revenue is still coming from print.

“Our online revenues are growing proportionately but they’re still a smaller proportion compared to our print advertising revenues,” he said.

“The Herald & Times is no different to any other publisher in the sense that circulation and print sales have gone down, and more people are now focused on our internet audience which has grown exponentially. The conundrum for the industry is how more money can be made out of digital, and we’re all experimenting.”

Despite reducing the number of free articles available to non-subscribers by 40 per cent in August last year, HeraldScotland’s unique visitors for period July-December 2013 increased by 16 per cent to 1.425 million, and it was named by ABC as the UK’s fastest-growing regional news site.

HeraldScotland accompanies its web offering with a range of apps, including a main Herald app and a Sunday Herald Life app. While other publishers have adopted native advertising to try and more effectively monetise their digital offering, Blott does not see HeraldScotland taking the same route.

“Native advertising is something we’ve looked at, but it’s not something that we’re looking to introduce in the immediate future,” he said.

“I’m not sure we’re doing anything radically different from other publishers. Our philosophy is to provide unique and compelling content on the web and not merely a replication of what’s in print.”

Last year, the Herald & Times Group announced plans to cut a number of jobs at the Herald, mainly for staff in the production department, as the titles became more digitally-focused.

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