As reported last week, the home pages of the new websites look more like their print counterparts and have a stronger multimedia focus. The Sunday Times in particular puts much emphasis on multimedia, leading the homepage with a large photo/video box and accompanying each story with a picture, as well as offering an index of multimedia galleries high up on the page. "We hope we've designed a site that focuses on showcasing that journalism in the cleanest and aesthetically pleasing way possible," said a Times staff member in a live chat.
It is easy to link between the two sites. On the Times site, main stories are accompanied by a 'behind the story' section with links to other articles. Plenty of live chats are offered, both with journalists and with other cultural, business or political figures, such as author Yann Martel. Layout is clear and colourful, with easily-identifiable sections.
Having a separate website for a Sunday paper seems to be an unusual step: the Q&A chat explained this by saying that the two papers represented two distinct brands and that "readers value that distinction." The website notes that the Sunday paper's site will be updated all day on Sunday, and there will be new features, blogs and content added every day. It has added a 'culture planner' which compiles critics' recommendations of the "best arts events, shows and TV programmes of the week in an interactive calendar." This also allows the reader to book tickets and record TV programmes via Sky+ (another News Corp property.)
The paper is "in talks with Apple" about launching on the iPad, the live Q&A session on the site revealed, and an iPhone app launch is expected in the next few months. The iPhone app is likely to be included in the digital subscription price, according to the chat. Access to Times+ will also be included, but not to the special Times+ packages.
With regards to the paywall, access to the sites will be £1 a day and £2 a week. It does not seem as if there will be any discounts for monthly or annual subscriptions. All content will be behind the paywall, including podcasts. According to the Guardian, Times assistant editor Tom Whitwell described the new strategy as an "all or nothing" approach, and said that Times and Sunday Times content was to almost entirely disappear from search services such as Google News. The sites have also withdrawn from the ABCe auditing.
The Guardian also noted the Times' new strategy to only allow users to post using their real names, in an attempt to build a real community around the site. The paper is also exploring the idea of developing profile pages for users, and advertising will also become increasingly more targeted at the readers.
It will be interesting to see if Rupert Murdoch's experiment with a premium paid online experience for general interest news will be successful and will bring in more money even if the paper loses a large proportion of its online readers. If it does, others are sure to follow suit.