The Times has outlined plans for its online payments model, dismissing micro-payments in favour of a 24-hour access charge for the online version of the paper. Speaking at the Society of Editors conference in Stansted, Essex, James Harding, editor of the Times, said the paper would charge for 24-hour access to that day’s edition of the paper alongside a subscription model. Harding pledged to “rewrite the economics of newspapers”, and warned the newspaper business had to avoid the mistakes of the music industry in making ‘free’ the norm.
“We created a culture of free, and we absolutely were party to that,” Harding said. “In the last few years, we have talked with great pride – we believed advertising would sustain us – about unique users. These people were window shopping down Oxford Street – they were not coming into our shops.”
He contrasted the Times’s 20 million-plus unique users with the 500,000 readers who had developed a “genuine digital newspaper habit”.
He said that from spring of next year the Times will start charging for the digital edition.
“We’re working on the exact pricing model, but we’d charge for a day’s paper, for a 24-hour sign-up to the Times. We’ll also establish a subscription price as well,” Harding added.
He said the Times would also enhance its relationship with its most loyal readers through home delivery and a reward programme through the recently launched Times+ membership venture.
He said newspaper should be wary of micro-payments for individual articles.
“You have to be very careful with article-only economics,” he said. “You will find yourself writing a lot more about Britney Spears and a lot less about Tamils in northern Sri Lanka.”
Indicating the costs of quality journalism, he said it had cost the Times £1.5m to run a Baghdad bureau for the duration the Iraq war and £10,000 to send a correspondent to report on violence in northern Sri Lanka.