Starting this week, regular users of the Local Matters website will notice a few changes.
Access to most of the site – the What’s On calendar, local jobs, business directory and classifieds – will remain free, but readers in future will be asked to make a small contribution towards some of the stories they see on our site.
The revenue raised from charging for premium content will be invested in our newsrooms. It is a fairly simple exchange, but one that we expect to be a bumpy ride because for too long, media organisations have been giving their content away for free. This has built an expectation that it should always be free.
However, the idea of introducing a small charge for premium content to support good journalism has been rolling out internationally for many years. One of the first adherents in New Zealand was the National Business Review, which has had a paywall since 2009. NZME, which prints the NZ Herald, followed suit 10 years later. Some other media organisations have gone down a different path to fund their news. For instance, writing in The Conversation, the co-director of the AUT research centre for Journalism, Media and Democracy, Merja Myllylahti, predicted that Stuff, which prints the Rodney Times, would never introduce a paywall, because it had built its revenue model on e-commerce activities and was now selling broadband access, electricity and health insurance among other things.
But here at Local Matters, which prints both the Mahurangi Matters and the Hibiscus Matters, we want to stay focused on our core business – keeping our communities informed with balanced, reliable and up-to-date information. Funding this just through advertising is no longer a viable option.
So, if you go on our site and are asked to pay to read a story, remember … the stories and photos you want to see don’t get their by magic. It takes the effort of trained journalists, often working evenings and on weekends, to deliver those stories. The survival of local journalism relies on readers recognising and accepting the need to put their hands in their pockets occasionally to contribute to this.
We understand that it can be frustrating to want to read a story and find yourself blocked by a paywall.
We have endeavoured to make the process as simple as possible, but if you have suggestions on how we can improve the experience we would welcome hearing from you.
Local news does matter – it keeps us connected as a community, (tries) to keep the politicians honest and often gives a voice to the disenfranchised. We thank you in advance for your understanding of the journey we are on and hope you will join us.