I can understand why some people who are used to reading the Hereford Times online for free are disgruntled because we now ask them to pay a small sum for a digital subscription.

After all, no one likes suddenly being asked to put their hand in the pocket for something that they have being getting for nothing.

So I want to explain why we are now asking you to pay, and why I think it so important that you do.

In the days before the internet newspapers had two main sources of income: the money that came from selling the paper, and that from selling advertisements.

We need to make money. No one gives us handouts, and we do not benefit from a licence fee like the BBC. The money we earn gives us our independence, and allows us to employ professional journalists trained to produce proper, informative news and ask questions of authority on your behalf. Of course, it also gives us a profit that we, like any other local business, need to survive and be prosperous.

This is the sort of informative and entertaining journalism paid subscriptions help fund:

But today fewer people buy newspapers. That means our traditional sources of income are declining.

Importantly, it does NOT mean the Hereford Times is less relevant than it was. People are still very interested in what we publish, but now they read it on a screen instead of on paper.

In fact, our readership is huge, and growing.


Being online makes it much easier for us to interact with our readers, and so create a service that both involves them and best suits their needs.

Now that may all sound rosy, but there is a catch.

Making money from publishing news online is not nearly as simple as it is in print.

For one thing, there are many more firms competing for advertising online. The biggest are the digital giants in America. Facebook and Google suck advertising money from the Herefordshire economy but contribute zero news coverage, to say nothing of corporation tax and business rates (we pay our dues on both counts, and are open about our tax strategy, which you can read here).

Hereford Times: £2 for a two-month subscription, or sign up for a year at just £1 a week£2 for a two-month subscription, or sign up for a year at just £1 a week

For a long time we have tried to give a free online news service supported by digital advertising and to some extent subsidised by the money we have been making from print.

But that business model was never, in my opinion, sustainable.

Now we are returning to a more traditional arrangement where both readers and advertisers share the costs of producing the journalism that is so vital to the functioning of democracy and community life.

Sign up for a digital subscription to the Hereford Times here

Our subscriptions also help guard against any trend to seek a large audience for advertisers at all costs. Temptation of this sort has led some news sites to publish low-quality so-called click-bait material simply to garner as many readers as possible.

At this point I should make clear that people who, for whatever reason, do not wish to support us through a subscription can still enjoy news on our website.

All our breaking news and coronavirus news remains free to access, because it is of such crucial importance.

And people can still read up to 40 stories a month for free.

But paying for enhanced access – and we are only talking about £1 a week for an annual subscription – does bring significant benefits over using our site for free. The video at the top of this explains what they are.

If you have any questions please leave them in the comments section below. I will do my best to answer them, but I do NOT respond to trolls. This is why.