Cornish hyperlocal introduces new pay-as-you-go feature

By Matt Abbott | 4th Mar 2019

Cornwall Reports has become the first hyperlocal news website in Britain to introduce a pay-as-you-go feature for its readers.

The new feature, hosted by Agate, will give readers ‘more control over what they choose to read’ with content available for 20 pence per article.

The new digital wallet scheme is currently being pioneered by The New European, The Cricketer, Complete France, Reaction and Popbitch.

Cornwall Reports remains the only hyperlocal, and perhaps the only local news website using the new system.

Cornwall Reports does not carry advertising on its news pages and the website is free of pop-ups or other forms of data acquisition.

Editor Graham Smith says: “We specialise in serious, high-quality journalism, and that kind of journalism has value.  It is not unreasonable to ask readers to pay for it.

“The new pay-as-you go feature might appeal to readers who want to read only certain parts of the site, such as our coverage of Cornwall Council, or of the NHS. But for readers who want more than four or five articles per week, it will still be better value to take out a regular subscription.”

With falling advertising revenues and a switch in the way people access news and information many parts of the industry are struggling to survive. While some people have been happy to pay a full subscription to read their favourite title, not everyone wants to or can afford to do this for every publication or website they use.

While subscriptions to Cornwall Reports have grown steadily during this period, editor Graham Smith has been keen to find other ways to make their stories as accessible to as many people as possible. 

Graham says: “Just over two years ago Cornwall Reports became the first local news website in Britain to insist that journalism has value and to put the future of what we do firmly in the hands of our readers.

“With no annoying adverts, pop-ups or data acquisition on our news pages, we have continued to serve a steady diet of hard-hitting exclusives and investigations. 

“However, while our annual subscriptions have held steady at £30, working out at less than 9 pence per day, we know that some people do not like paying regular subscriptions or would prefer to pick and choose the content they read from a variety of outlets.“

Three weeks ago Graham read an article in The Guardian by Roy Greenslade which talked about the success of Agate’s new digital wallet scheme. Intrigued by the growing number of national and international publications signing up to the scheme, he contacted the company to see if they would be interested in a local news website.

Just two weeks later Cornwall Reports now proudly displays the green wallet symbol in its site and is already being contacted by people interested in taking part.

Graham says: “Agate offers a new way for people to stay informed while offering them even more control over what they read and I am delighted to have the opportunity to take part in this next stage of the digital revolution.“

Agate’s online “wallet” means people only pay for the stories they want to view with no ongoing commitment. After signing up for the scheme and putting some money into their Agate wallet account (the minimum top up is £3) , they pay a small amount – usually between 20 and 30 pence – to read paid for articles on any of the fast growing number of sites that are connected to Agate. Each publisher sets their own rate per article. 

People signing up for the scheme will pay 20 pence to read an individual article from Cornwall Reports. There is a weekly “free point” which means anyone spending £1 a week (i.e. reading five articles) can read the whole site for free for the rest of the week.  Once someone has signed up, the payment for each article goes through instantaneously without having to put in credit card details, or signing up for site after site.

As well as accessing articles on the Cornwall Reports site, people taking part in the scheme can also pay to read individual articles published by other publications and websites connected with Agate.  These currently include The New European, The Cricketer, Complete France, Reaction and Popbitch signed up with Agate, with many more on the way.

Dominic Young, CEO of Agate says: “We’re thrilled that Cornwall Reports has signed up with Agate to offer customers more flexibility with an option to pay per article. Agate was created because we believe that being able to produce quality journalism in return for a fair price, and being able to pay effortlessly, is the template for commercially successful local news. Cornwall Reports are, not for the first time, pioneers and are leading the way for other local publishers to follow.e

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