Readers of The Times website, the online presence of one the UK’s oldest and most well respected papers goes behind a paywall today. Long gone is free-browsing of The Times articles, with access now restricted to those willing to pay a premium.
There will be multiple ways of paying for the content on The Times. Readers will be asked to pay £1 for the first 30 days of access to the site, and then £2 a week from there on in. You’ll also be able to pick up a 24 hour pass for £1 a pop.
Rupert Murdoch, owner of The Times umbrella company News International, believes that the higher quality of reportage on the site will retain enough users to become far more profitable than their current model.
It’s not just subscription fees that are potentially lucrative here though, but advertising too. A niche, paying audience will mean that advertisers will be expected to pay a higher premium for more focussed exposure. Add to that the possibility of user tracking and trends across subscribers, and you have some very valuable personal data that can be mined.
It’s an important day then not only for The Times, but for the web as a whole. Though the financial Times and Wall Street Journal offer paid-for content, they have also offered free articles too. If a company as massive as News International can make paywalls work, it wont be long before other media companies follow suit, which may well ring the death knell for the culture of the free web.