Sunday, August 22, 2010

Will people be willing to pay for online access to newspapers?

Does it pay to offer news services online for a charge? This question has been asked by most of the newspapers that offer free content online but very few of them dared to test whether this would work. Surprisingly News International, publisher of the Times decided to take the challenge and start to charge for what it considers a quality newspaper.

Comparative results were recently issued by ComScore and it shows that in May, the free-to-access website attracted 2.79 million unique users in the UK, a slight increase on the level of the previous three months. News International launched its separate and websites on 25 May. It made registration compulsory and began redirecting users from the old site on 15 June and started charging for access to both sites on 2 July.

From figures released by ComScore, the combined number of unique visitors to the two new sites (pay sites) has fallen to 1.61 million in July, from 2.22 million in June, and 2.79 million in May. This had an effect on the average number of minutes each user spent on the site which was 7.6 in May, 5.8 in June and 4 in July. Also page views have dropped from 29 million in May to 20 million in June and 9 million in July.

To try to attract users to their pay sites, News International has run an introductory offer offering subscribers 30 days' access for £1. Its normal pricing is £1 for a day's access to The Times and The Sunday Times and £2 for a week, while subscribers to each newspaper get free access to the related website.

No indications have yet emerged from the company as to how many people have subscribed or how much revenue subscriptions have generated.

Will such strategy be effective? Will have to reduce the cost of advertising due to the drop in visitor figures; and if so, will the revenue generated from subscriptions offset the difference? Few people tend to be willing to pay for what other competitors offer for free especially for something as intangible as online access to a newspaper...will News International rethink its strategy to move back again to a free version?


  1. Definitely yes. I find myself buying the TIMES magazine for my iPad every now and then.