So, The Times and Sunday Times will be launching new websites in May and will be the first UK newspaper to charge for their online content.
Their parent company, News International, is going to start charging £1 a day for access or £2 if for a week’s subscription.
Well, maybe you, but – if it wasn’t for my job in the PR industry – I’m not convinced I’d be one of the 5% of visitors to news sites that the industry reckons will pay for content. I heard the news about The Times on the radio driving into work so when I arrived at my desk I did a quick Google search on the story, which delivered 222 news results.
So why – when there are hundreds of free sources reporting on the same story – would I want to click through to a site that charged me for reading their version?
Challenging times for publishers, but it’s still all about value
I’m sure the publishing industry will be watching to see how The Times rises to the challenge of producing online content that readers are willing to pay for.
In a world where an ever smaller number of journalists are trying to get out more and more news, maybe the paywall will mean The Times can fund more in-depth ‘investigative’ reporting rather than churning out news stories in a ‘me too’ fashion. That would definitely put more ‘value’ into the end product.
But it’s in stark contrast to speculation that the new owners of The Independent may make the newspaper a free one.
The FT is able to charge because its audiences are willing to pay for the unique content it provides, giving them valuable insights into the financial world. But to persuade readers to pay for generalised news content in the digital age? That’s going to take some serious marketing efforts.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting this publishing business is an easy one; and I understand that without revenue – and profit – I may well face the prospect of sitting down with an 11am coffee on a Sunday, without a physical paper. God forbid.
But for the time being I’m happy with the Everyman crossword on a Sunday, and engaging with a national newspaper that recently set out how it wants its website ‘to be very open’ and do the ‘opposite of putting it behind a wall’.