Murdoch’s UK news sites to start charging
(NY TIMES) News International, the British arm of News Corp., said Friday that two of its publications, The Times and The Sunday Times of London, would begin charging readers using its Web sites in June.
News International said in a statement that both titles would introduce new Web sites in early May, separating their online offerings for the first time and replacing the combined site,Times Online.
From June, the new sites, www.thetimes.co.uk and www.thesundaytimes.co.uk, will be available at £1, or $1.48, for a day’s access or £2 for a week’s subscription. Payment will give customers access to both sites. The new sites will be available free for a trial period.
The decision puts the two publications alongside a small but growing number of news organizations charging readers to access content online.
With traditional print circulation declining and advertising revenue weak — both from online and from print — media companies are trying to extract new sources of revenue from online readers, despite the risk that they could alienate some by charging for access.
The Wall Street Journal, also owned by News Corp., The Financial Times and Newsday all charge for access. The New York Times has announced a plan to do so. Each has a payment system developed largely in-house.
News Corp. announced in August that all of its titles would move to charging for Web access. Its chairman and chief executive, Rupert Murdoch, threatened last year to remove his publications’ stories from Google’s search index to encourage people to pay for content online.
“At a defining moment for journalism, this is a crucial step towards making the business of news an economically exciting proposition,” Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International, said in the statement.
The company did not make a direct reference to when or how it planned to charge for access to The Sun, the largest circulation daily in Britain, but Mrs. Brooks said further changes to the Internet model would be forthcoming.
“This is just the start,” she said. “The Times and The Sunday Times are the first of our four titles in the U.K. to move to this new approach. We will continue to develop our digital products and to invest and innovate for our customers.”
The absence of a dedicated Web site for The Sunday Times, the best selling Sunday broadsheet in Britain, has long been seen as an anomaly by media analysts.
The Sunday Times had an average print circulation of 1.2 million copies from September to January, down 3.8 percent from a year earlier, according to ABC, a body that monitors circulation and is run by the newspaper industry.
The daily version had an average circulation of 541,000 from September to January, down 12.6 percent from a year earlier, according to ABC.
According to Comscore, a market research company focused on the Internet, Times Online had 2.4 million unique visitors in February, a 21 percent decline from a year earlier.
But that made it the sixth most popular newspaper online in Britain. The No. 1 was Mail Online, the Web site of The Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday, followed by The Sun.