U.K.’s ‘Independent’ Newspaper Introduces Paywall

Charges for overseas readers

British newspaper The Independent is to introduce a pay service for non-U.K. readers, The Guardian reports. The Indy is the latest British title to adopt charges for its online service. The Times and Financial Times have already introduced paywalls for website access. But The Independent will apparently only charge international readers, not U.K. residents. In particular it will target online readers in the U.S. and Canada. North American readers will be charged $6.99 a month, according to The Guardian. The Independent has not announced the news on its website.

Speaking in a Guardian interview earlier this month, The Indy’s new editor, Chris Blackhurst, noted the wisdom of charging international readers for access to the website. "You have to make a distinction between the U.K. and foreign readers. In the U.K. where you have a BBC, it is very hard to make the case for a paywall," he said. The new service will allow international readers to access 20 articles on the Independent’s website before being asked to pay.

The paywall is apparently part of a strategy to maintain a “premium” title. The paper is also planning a “top-priced” iPad app and will cut 70,000 free bulk copies—delivered to airports, hotels, and stations—from its circulation.

The Indy’s head of digital, Zach Leonard, told New Media Age that as well as subscription fees, the new subscription platform, Press+, would “preserve the ad benefit” of online editions.

“There’s a high degree of loyalty from U.S. readers, and we needed a system to allow us to preserve the ad benefit,” he said. “We didn’t want to cut that off. Press+ allows us to set thresholds and change the dials over time.”

The Independent is one of the youngest national papers in the U.K. It celebrated its 25th birthday last week, having launched in 1986. The center-left publication has a circulation of over 180,000, including bulk copies. In July 2011 it was the only British national paper not to have dropped in readership compared to the previous year.