My book is now open – how long before the Times paywall is deemed a failure?

My book is now open – how long before the Times paywall is deemed a failure?

I’ve been consistently critical of The Times newspaper’s plans to erect a paywall around their site from June 2010. Its not that I necessarily disagree with their intent, I just don’t think their strategy for making people pay is going to work. GBP1 per day or GBP2 per week is simply too high for many readers to consider – particularly when there are so many other sources of good news readily available to people – Telegraph.co.uk, NYTimes.com, BBCNews.com Guardian.co.uk USAtoday.com etc…..

Indeed, I note that a discussion on The Times own site was overwhelmingly critical of the proposal with most people simply commenting that they would turn to the BBC website instead. Unfortunately this discussion lasted a meer 24 hours before it was unceremoniously pulled from the site.

Given the Times’ commercial team past form I wasn’t therefore that surprised to see the iPad application in the UK will only be available to people for a whopping GBP9.99 every 28 days. More surprisingly they aren’t even giving people the opportunity to road-test the application with a limited free download.

Counter this approach to that of the Financial Times. The FT recently launched an iPad app in the US with considerable success. They sought a sponsor to allow people to download the app and access stories for free until the end of July. As a result the FT app is currently in the top 20 of free apps even two weeks after its release. It has also been picked out as ‘New and Noteworthy’ – surely an achievement for such an old lady?

While the FT app will ultimately revert to paywall status, the FT offers considerable value added content, comment and video, something that, having seen the new Times website, is sorely lacking. Maybe this explains why the Times asked ABCe to stop publishing their online traffic figures…. they are aware as anyone that these are likely to fall out of bed once the paywall goes up. My ultimate question is however, how long will this strategy last before its either a) significantly changed (i.e. a lot cheaper) or b) abandoned…… either way I’m sure I will let you know!

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