PaidContent has published some 'sneak peaks' of the Times' new website, to be launched in June. TheTimes.co.uk and SundayTimes.co.uk will replace Timesonline.co.uk and will be behind a paywall.
As paidContent noted, the new site looks more similar to the print edition than its predecessor did in terms of layout and its use of the print masthead. The lead story has a good deal of space on the home page. Another change is the introduction of an 'OpEd Live' section which allows readers to chat with the paper's columnists and opinion writers. PaidContent reported that readers will also be able to use TheTimes.co.uk to chat with other personalities via CoverItLive, though this is something that Times Online already does, in fact.
PaidContent offers a couple of different shots of the homepage, a shot of the new navigation bar, a couple of the OpEd Live feature, the new Arts page index, and a commenting form.
The two new separated sites will cost £1 a day or £2 per week or are included in the price of an annual newspaper subscription. Sunday Times editor John Witherow said that the paywall was "a big gamble" but a necessary step to meeting Times Newspapers' £100m editorial costs, Press Gazette reported today. Witherow also said that perhaps more than 90% of readers were likely to be lost once the paywall went up next month, but that the smaller core of dedicated readers might be more attractive to advertisers. If 100,000 people chose to pay, that would bring in £10m in subscription revenue to the paper, he said.
Guardian writer Peter Robins suggested that an extremely important aspect of the Times' new paid online content strategy was using the payment information provided by their readers to then sell other products. If you can persuade readers to store their payment details, this opens the way for one-click shopping via a newspaper website. He proposes selling concert tickets through the Sunday Times culture section, or wine through the paper's wine club. Hence, newspaper websites could become the next iTunes or Amazon, he says.
The Times and Sunday Times are the first of Rupert Murdoch's general-interest papers to charge online and they certainly will not be the last. Murdoch is one of the most vocal proponents of paid online content but many others are looking at similar strategies, notably the New York Times, which is to start charging at the start of 2011. Could paid online content become the norm if these papers' experiments succeed? And what type of payment system will prove most successful - metered like the NYT or a full paywall like the Times of London?