For months there have been rumours of a forthcoming online paywall at the Times, as preparations for times.co.uk and sundaytimes.co.uk got underway. Today it was announced that both of the new sites will charge £1 per day or £2 per week for readers to access content, from June onwards. That is not much compared to the cost of a daily paper, but with so much quality English-language news content on the web for free, it will be interesting to see how many readers are willing to pay. This is not the first paywall in the world, but it is quite possibly the largest and The Sun and the News of the World are both planning to follow suit.
There can be little doubt that the media landscape is changing fast, with many newspaper circulations declining and media of all types struggling to raise revenue through advertising as businesses of all sizes try to get the best possible ROI in a tough environment, but good, well-researched journalism does not come cheap, so it is completely understandable that News International wants to start to charge for quality content. However, thanks to the internet and services such as twitter, consumers are quickly getting used to accessing information for free and it could be a challenge to convince them to part with their hard-earned cash.
Only time will tell if people will be willing to subscribe, and it will be interesting to see how both sites market to potential subscribers. From a PR and Markerting perspective, there can be little doubt that those who do sign up will be an engaged and responsive audience, which is definitely worth targeting with relevant messaging. Whatever happens over the next few months, the world will be watching, as everyone races to develop a media business model that can be sustainable in this ever-changing landscape.
If you want to know more about the paywall, check out this q&a with editor James Harding: http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/media/article7077669.ece