During a brief online Q&A with readers Times editor James Harding shed a little more light on the paper’s plans to start charging for online content from June – revealing that even general news will be charged for by The Times.
He said: “We’re charging for the vast bulk of our content, but we will of course continue to give people a glimpse of The Times, not least through the front page – the home page, which will be free at all times.”
He gave the impression that The Times wants print readers to convert into digital ones, which is curious considering those rather expensive printing presses Mr Murdoch invested in at Broxbourne a couple of years ago.
He said: “I hope that what we’re doing is providing a simple price and one that, even in these difficult times, is affordable. It’ll be £2 a week for all seven days. The print editions will cost you £8.50. And, I hope, that over time you’ll see that the digital editions of The Times and The Sunday Times will give you so much more…”
Talking abut the new digital editions of The Times he says: “I hope that what you will see is that we are delivering The Times, but, in its digital editions, an even better product. And that’s because we can do so much more online: we can provide video, interactive graphics, personalised news feeds and a chance for people to engage, directly, with our journalists.”
He says of the new-look website: “It is different in design and there is a fair bit of innovation that’s gone into it. We hope that it will be cleaner, clearer and stronger – that it will have much of the architecture of the paper, but all of the versatility made possible by digital media.”
So far The Times has yet to announce a game-changing tactic that will make subscribing online absolutely compelling. People have tried charging simply for the newspaper content online before, and that doesn’t work. You can put video and audio online, but it will be nothing compared to what you can get for free from the BBC and ITN.
For their sakes I hope News International have another rabbit under their hats on this one.