British Times papers to charge for Web content

The Times and The Sunday Times of London, both owned by News Corp., plan to replace their combined Times Online site and charge readers for new, separate sites in June.

It appears the day when we we'll be paying to read general interest news stories on the Web is coming sooner rather than later--perhaps as early as June for readers of the U.K.-based Times publications.

News International, the British division of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., announced on Friday that two of its newspapers, The Times and The Sunday Times of London, are set to begin charging readers using its sites in June.

The two papers have been offering their content in a combined news Web site called Times Online. Under the new plan, however, News International would introduce new, separate sites for each publication in May, according to several news accounts citing a company statement.

The sites will reportedly be offered for 1 pound ($1.48) for a day's access, or 2 pounds ($2.96) for a week's subscription. Those fees will cover access to both sites, which will be available for free during a trial period.

As newspapers struggle to stay alive amid declining print circulations and weak advertising revenues--only made worse by recessionary times--there's been much talk about charging users for online stories.

"At a defining moment for journalism, this is a crucial step towards making the business of news an economically exciting proposition," News International CEO Rebekah Brooks said in a broadly reported statement. She added that "This is just the start" but did not offer up details on plans for the company's two other U.K. publications.

The Wall Street Journal, which News Corp. acquired in 2007, is already behind a pay wall and has fared much better than some of its print-media brethren in the aftermath of the recession. The Financial Times and Newsday also charge for access and The New York Times has plans in the works to do so as well.

But the move by the British Times publications, would mark the one of the first mass-market, consumer newspapers to start charging for content. (Newsday and Le Monde in France are two that we know of.)

Meanwhile, in another move to save his business, Murdoch continues to point fingers at Google for depriving the industry of revenue by making news articles searchable for free. He plans to press legal action against the search giant if talks fail over its indexing of news content.

The Times and The Sunday Times of London have been offering their content in a combined news Web site called Times Online (shown here). Under the new plan, News International plans to launch separate sites for each publication in May and will charge for them in June. Screenshot by Michelle Meyers/CNET
About the author

Michelle Meyers, associate editor, has been writing and editing CNET News stories since 2005. But she's still working to shed some of her old newspaper ways, first honed when copy was actually cut and pasted. When she's not fixing typos and tightening sentences, she's working with reporters on story ideas, tracking media happenings, or freshening up CNET News' home page.

 

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