The Times of London is to start charging online during the first half of next year, James Harding, the paper's editor, said at the Society of Editors conference in Stansted, Essex. He said that the Times would charge for 24-hour access to the website, alongside subscription models, it was widely reported. Micropayments will not be implemented, however.
The move will be accompanied by a redesign of the website, paidContent reported, also confirming that a standalone Sunday Times website will indeed be launched. Harding said that newspapers were undervalued and that "we are going to rewrite the economics of the newspaper, newsgathering and delivery business." He stressed the expense of quality journalism, saying that it cost the Times £1.5m to run a Baghdad bureau during the Iraq war and £10,000 to send a correspondent to report on violence in northern Sri Lanka.
Rupert Murdoch, head of the Times' parent company News Corp (via News International) has been clear that the publisher intends to charge online and all its news properties. Harding told Press Gazette that the Times and the Sunday Times were likely to be the first News International titles to start charging, and that a day's access to the paper would cost about the same as buying a print edition, which is 90 pence.
With regards to micropayments, Harding expressed reluctance, saying that they could lead to "writing a lot more about Britney Spears and a lot less about Tamils in northern Sri Lanka."
The Times recently launched Times+, a membership club which offers a variety of perks, and which is included in a print subscription. It is part of the paper's effort to connect more closely with its loyal readers, and Harding was clear that this core readership is now a definite priority for the paper.
Will charging online work for newspapers? Will readers be willing to pay for the online news that they have received free for some years? Several surveys conducted in recent weeks have produced various different results on what percentage of readers would be prepared to pay, and there is much debate over the best way to charge. Undoubtedly, publishers will be watching the Times' experience very closely as the debate continues.