Future of news: The new Times website

The Times today launched its new website in preparation for the paywall which will be put up in the next few months. Initially readers will be charged £1 for a day’s access or £2 for a week’s worth of the digital version.

Editor James Harding appeared on the Today programme this morning to discuss the decision to start charging for content. He argued that by giving content away for free you are “undermining the value of  journalism”. It’s an admirable argument – and I assume he means good, quality journalism, not just the churning out of wire stories – but surely the key motivation for moving to a pay model online is to generate revenue?

Harding did admit that they want to “create a sustainable economics for the future of journalism online”. He also made a fair point that it wasn’t a radical move, rather just replicating the model that has sustained physical newspapers for centuries. But I’m not sure putting a blanket charge on all content is the way forward.

Perhaps charging for columnists or unique content – thereby protecting the quality journalism Harding mentioned – is the future of news online? Steve Hewlett, in response, said that while the £40m currently generated by the Guardian website wasn’t enough to support GNM, it would be sufficient to run a global news organisation in some form.

It will be interesting to see how the Times pay model works out over the coming months, particularly once the initial curiosity has died down. Several newspapers, including the Guardian, have stated they won’t implement a paywall, but if the Times experiment is successful maybe they’ll have to review that decision.

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