The Times and Sunday Times announced today their plans to restrict access to paid membership from June.
News International, the newspapers’ parent company, announced that readers will be offered a day’s use for £1, or £2 for a week’s subscription. Readers who have a seven-day subscription to the print editions will not be charged extra for access to the websites. International pricing has been set at $2/€1.5 a day or $4/€3 for a week.
In total that means UK users will pay £104/per year to view the site. Interestingly International users will pay an increased $208 (£140) per year for the same service, a fact that hasn’t gone down well with the US audience.
So far the reaction on this website has been fairly negative, as you can see from the screenshot below. It is unusual for the top comments to have this many votes in such a short period (
1533 3574 to the leading comment).
The Financial Times seems to have been reasonably successful introducing a paywall to their content. Subscription is set at $4.69 per week or $244 per year with free access to 10 articles per month for registered users. However as some contributors have pointed out, FT content is targeting a community that needs specialist, accurate and reliable business news.
The audience at Times Online are consuming more general news that can be sourced elsewhere. It will be very interesting to see how well this gamble plays out.
Articles at The TimesOnline are well syndicated and linked to across the Internet. Take the article today “Binyamin Netanyahu humiliated after Barack Obama ‘dumped him for dinner‘”. We can already see over 1400 quotes from this article in Google.. Will these links and references start to dry up once the paywall is erected?
Aside from the distribution, The Times has built up a successful and vocal community. These days, much of the new is sourced from the same few facts and quotes. An informed community adds insight and value to the articles.
Google News has enhanced this need for added value on news articles. When you’re presented with 5000 similar articles, you’re going to look for the factors that make articles unique and add to your knowledge. Opinion and commentary play a key role here.
Looking through the responses of regular contributors to the site, you’re left wondering if Murdoch has just killed off the very thing that made The Times Online special.
After all, if the comments offer unique value to the website then shouldn’t Murdoch be paying these people for their content, or at least letting them have free access. You can bet the successful paid model for online news will be one that rewards all the content producers involved.
Update 26/03/2010: 11pm The user backlash towards this move seems to have taken The Times by surprise. An impromptu live Q&A with James Harding was “inundated with questions” and seemed to struggle under the demand. Only 5 questions were answered before the editor sped away.
They have now launched a Q&A article on the changes. Considering this was released late on a Friday, it doesn’t seem planned.
As other commentators have noted, this maybe the first time we’ll see the effects of a paywall in action on such a scale. We can end the hypothetical discussions and see if this model can work in the mainstream.
Latest posts by Nick Wilsdon (see all)
- Places Available For Free SEO Seminar 6th June in London - May 24, 2013
- Consumers Turn On Amazon Over UK Tax Avoidance - May 18, 2013
- Using Google Sets To Generate Blogger Lists - March 19, 2013