London: Online media space is set for radical change with UK’s News International announcing Friday that users of The Times and Sunday Times websites will be charged from June.
Access for the two titles will cost 1 pound (USD 1.49) per day or 2 pounds for a week. However, subscribers to the print versions will get free access.
The move to test consumers` appetite to pay for mass-market news online, if successful, will clearly be the game-changer in more ways than one.
"This is just the start," said Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of Rupert Murdoch owned News Corp`s British newspaper unit News International which also publishes the Sun daily tabloid and sister paper The News of the World on Sundays.
"At a defining moment for journalism, this is a crucial step towards making the business of news an economically exciting proposition," she said in a statement.
Clearly, the strategy is market-driven and necessitated by declining newspaper sale.
Moreover, it’s no secret that media companies, the world over, are scouting for a business model to generate more revenue from their web properties.
Two business newspapers -- the Financial Times and News Corp`s Wall Street Journal -- charge readers for online access but consumer publications have so far not followed, fearing a massive loss of readers.
News Corp chief executive Rupert Murdoch has become a kind of champion of paid-for online news, saying Internet giant Google has deprived the industry of revenue by making news articles searchable for free.
In January, The New York Times said it would start charging readers for access to online articles from next year, acknowledging that advertising revenues were unlikely to be able to fund its journalism in the future.
It remains to be seen how The Times fares as a product on the web, given the considerable amount of free content which is easily available on the Internet.