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Times: they are a-charging

Sunday 28th March 2010
Doubled troubled times, Online becomes two sites Courtesy:TimesOnline.

The Times and The Sunday Times of London will begin to charge readers using its Web sites in June. News International said in a statement that both titles would introduce new Web sites in early May, separating their online offerings for the first time and replacing the current combined site, Times Online.

The new Times & Sunday Times sites, will be available at £1, or $1.48, for a day’s access or £2 for a week’s subscription. Payment will give customers access to both sites.  The weekly subscription will also give access to the e-paper and certain new applications. Access to the digital services will be included in the seven-day subscriptions of print customers to The Times and The Sunday Times. The new sites will be available free for a trial period and readers can register at TimesPlus

The decision puts the two publications alongside a small but growing number of news organisations charging readers to access content online. Traditional print circulation decline and weak advertising, online and print, means media companies must try to extract new sources of revenue from online readers, despite risking the alienatation  of charging for access.

The Wall Street Journal, also owned by News Corp, The Financial Times The Metal Bulletin and Newsday all charge for access. New York Times has announced a plan to do so. Each has developed an in-house payment system.

The Times and The Sunday Times are the first of our four titles in the UK to move to this new approach. We will continue to develop our digital products and to invest and innovate for our customers,” says Rebekah Brooks, (right) CEO, News International.

The absence of a dedicated Web site for The Sunday Times, Britain's best-selling Sunday broadsheet, has long been seen as an anomaly by media analysts. The Sunday Times had an average print circulation of 1.2m copies from September to January, down 3.8% from a year earlier. The daily version had an average circulation of 541,000 from September to January, down 12.6% from a year earlier, according to ABC, that monitors circulation and is run by the newspaper industry

According to Comscore, a market research company focused on the Internet, Times Online had 2.4m unique visitors in February, a 21% decline from a year earlier making it the sixth most popular newspaper online in Britain. Mail Online, the Web site of The Daily Mail took top spot and The Mail on Sunday, followed by The Sun.

Editor of The Sunday Times, John Witherow, (left) said: “For the first time, readers will have access to all their favourite sections and writers. We will be introducing new digital features to enhance our coverage and encourage interactivity. Every day, readers will be able to talk to our writers and experts and view stunning photographs and graphics. Subscribers will be able to get this brand new site, plus the enhanced Times site, seven days of the week, all for the price of a cup of coffee."

“We continue to invest in frontline journalism. We have more foreign correspondents than our rivals and continue to put reporters on new beats – last year we added an Ocean Correspondent and we just became the only British paper to have a Pentagon Correspondent. And we want to match that with investment in innovation," says (right) The Times editor, James Harding.

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