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The end of free news content?

Written by James | 29-Mar-2010 10:51:22

From June, The Times and The Sunday Times will be charging for their online content – the first general interest news sites to do so. Other News International properties such as The Sun are due to follow.

This is a risky move, but a necessary one to deliver a commercially viable business model. Free online news content has been hitting print circulations and therefore revenue to the publishers for years. There seems to be a split opinion between current Times Online users – some will just go elsewhere to get their free news fix, and others will adopt the paid model due to their editorial preference. How long they will be prepared to pay for their "editorial preference", if other major newspapers do not follow suit, is yet to be seen – it worked for the FT and Wall Street Journal, but these are specialist content titles.

How can their competitors sustain their businesses without following suit? Are there other revenue generating models that will allow them to continue operating the free model? It looks doubtful...

So come June I expect to see users of Time Online drop as payment shy users jump ship to The Guardian or Telegraph... and if they introduce their own paid subscription models the numbers should balance again – albeit at a much lower overall number... as there will always be free news content online!

Will the net loss in users result in the remaining paid subscribers’ revenue being less than what they have lost in advertising revenue? Let’s wait and see what the numbers tell us...

Read more: Times Online