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Will the Times' paywall pay off?

Clare Spencer | 16:00 UK time, Friday, 26 March 2010

Times OnlineCommentators react to News International's announcement that they will start charging £1 a day to access Times and Sunday Times articles online.

Robert Andrews in Paid Content asks
why the subscription would cost £1:

"News International is using the 'all for the price of a cup of coffee' comparison. Matching the £1-a-day print price will fuel the fire of those who suspect the aim here is really to drive people back to paper. But the Times is promising plenty of online-native innovation, too."

Mercedes Bunz at the Guardian looks at how much revenue the move would make:

"Assuming that only five percent of daily users convert to the paywall system - a standard metric for paywalls - that would bring in £1.83 million if they each buy a £1 daily pass. At a 10 percent conversion, it would net £3.66 million per month for the two papers. If more people of those choose to buy the weekly pass, the revenues would be lower."

Richard Perez-Pena in the New York Times points out that the move runs contrary to News International owner Rupert Murdoch's previous pricing policy:

"The pricing runs contrary to Mr. Murdoch's long-standing instincts and practice of under-cutting competitors on price to gain the largest audience. In fact, when he took over The Journal, he talked about dismantling its online pay system.
But advertising has since slumped badly, making subscription revenue more important, and Mr. Murdoch has become one of the most prominent exponents of the view that news organizations must charge online."

The Financial Times' digital media correspondent Tim Bradshaw questions how successful the paywall will be:

"But the wide availability of free news online has led many to question whether paywalls can attract substantial numbers of customers. In the UK, newspapers face online competition from the BBC, which earlier this month pledged to curtail the scope of its websites.
A global survey by Nielsen published last month found that a third of web users would consider paying to access newspapers' websites."

Ben Camm-Jones at Webuser doubts people will be prepared to pay for Times content:

"Of course there will be people who sign up because of their loyalty to the brand. However, the way news is consumed online is very different to the printed press - whereas people tend to stick to one newspaper, they'll visit a variety of different organisations to get their online news fix."

In the Independent John Rentoul tells a cautionary tale from the days when the Independent charged for their commentary:

"I received an email from a lady in California who wanted her $1 back. She had paid to read one of my columns, the first paragraph of which was a parody of Blair-rage idiocy - you know the sort of thing:
Tony Blair... If he isn't the Anti-Christ, just imagine how bad the real one must be...
She had clicked through the pay wall to read the rest of it, which was, I am afraid, the sort of Blairdolatry with which some of you will be familiar. I replied politely, wishing her well in her quest never to read things with which she disagreed, but she never got her dollar back."

Links in full

Financial TimesNeil Hume | Financial Times | Putting up the paywall
IndependentJohn Rentoul | Independent | I want a refund
Paid ContentRobert Andrews | Paid Content | Times' New Pay Site: £1 A Day, £2 A Week, Starting June
GuardianMercedes Bunz | Guardian | Times and Sunday Times websites to start charging from June
Financial Times
Tim Bradshaw | Financial Times | Murdoch to launch UK web paywall in June

WebuserBen Camm-Jones | Webuser | Will The Times pay for its paywall?
New York TimesRichard Perez-Pena | New York Times | The Times of London to Charge Online

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