The Times Goes Subscription Pay Wall

Online Looks Like a Newspaper?

Online Looks Like a Newspaper?

The great media experiment begins as London’s The Times and Sunday Times erects a paywall that requires online readers to subscribe.

So what are they selling? Simple really, either you buy today’s edition – or you buy a subscription to all the editions this month.

No atomic content sales here! No micro payments of 2p for 1 article – no! Just as we forecast, we have returned to selling newspapers!


The big question now is – can The Times make it work?

Well, time will tell – but let’s take a look at their offer. You have two choices

  • £1 for a day pass (ie today’s edition) – sold rather like WiFi access is sold – on a time limited basis.


  • £1 for 30 days (ie a subscription) – with repeat billing at £2 per week after the first month – or £8.66 per month.

So what does this tell us about strategy?

Clearly, everyone will choose the £1 for 30 days over the £1 for one day! So, the pricing is designed to turn us into subscribers.

And, what are we subscribing to? A £104 per year subscription. Is that a lot or a little? Well, my Economist subscription renewal has just arrived and I’m offered a 47% discount which means I pay £108 per year.

Practically the same then!

What is interesting is how this relates to buying copies at the newstand. Each copy would cost £1 during weekdays and £1.50 for the Saturday paper. The Sunday Times costs £2.

So, add it all up and you ‘could’ spend £442 per year on buying every copy of The Times and The Sunday Times. So, will the offer be shown as 77% off? Well, maybe, but who buys every copy every day? Perhaps a library – but no sane individual?

Hence, there would appear to be a growing practice of charging just over £100 for an annual subscription for a quality news feed.

And it fits well – because even if you took the view that you would only buy the paper 3 times per week plus the a Sunday paper – and not holidays – so 48 weeks of the year – your annual cost would still be £240.

And, of course, this subscription gives you access to the mobile (iphone) edition too – which, if bought through a different iPad subscription is a more expensive £9.99 per month. Now, the iPad edition is not great to navigate – the FT does a far better job – but that is another story.

The point is that the current pricing model adopted by The Times makes internet buying of newspapers a bargain!

Great – so the pricing strategy is clear – and is based on The Economist superbly successful subscription model. Now, will it work?

Want me to get off the fence and answer that? Well, of course, I have to say yes.

Why? Simply, the pricing is very attractive but also based on very sound principles – The Economist probably the best selling subscription product in the world and people are already paying for it – and The Times have taken a leaf out of their book (or newspaper).

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