Is it really Time for news websites to start charging?

For some it’s been a long time coming but The Times has officially become the first national newspaper to charge for access to its website.

Users will pay £1 for a day’s access and £2 for a week’s subscription, starting in June – but is this a good or a bad move? Or is it simply the inevitable?

The BBC says that the move opens a new front in the battle for readership and will be watched closely by the industry.

And they’re right.

The move is risky, and many industry insiders think Murdoch is making a mistake. But the fact is that news is a commodity and newspapers and news outlets need to make money.

But that doesn’t mean it’s going to work.

If people are being charged to access the site they’ll simply go elsewhere. Only die-hard Times readers will pay the fee – most will simply move to another site. After all, political stance aside, the day-to-day news is pretty much the same in every publication.

One of the reasons actual newspapers sales is declining is because it’s free to access it online, so the reaction will be ‘why pay?’ when I can still get news free from a hundred other sources? 

However, that said, I do think that Murdoch has set a precedent and done something every other newspaper has been toying with for years.  I’m sure other online broadsheets will eventually follow his lead – like they did when he converted the Times to ‘compact’ size.

But it’s risky being the first one. 

What do you think?

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2 thoughts on “Is it really Time for news websites to start charging?

  1. Matt Anderson says:

    Good points.

    Remember that the WSJ and the FT have been charging for a longtime now for premium content, but you could argue that this information has ‘added value’. e.g. A stock-trader could gain financially from the information.

    The same could not be said for the Times, which has free rivals (most notably the Guardian online) that provide similar content for free.

    Also, lets face it most of the content in the Times is from PA, Reuters and PRs anyway 🙂

    • brookenolan says:

      Very true – the WSJ and FT do have much more of a ‘product’ on offer, and for an audience which is much more willing to pay for it.

      Good point about the Times content too – though I like to think us PRs fill most papers!

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