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With the death of the News Corporation title thelondonpaper last week, chatter about pay walls has increased. News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch has already said that most, if not all, News Corp. titles will have a pay wall in place soon enough.

In anticipation of that,  The Times has launched an ad campaign on the Tube that promotes what they see as their unique brand of news.

It might be because The Times (UK) is always well-below other London news papers in the ABCs circulation listings, so they've always got some advertising campaign going on. However the ads I spotted on the Underground recently are different.

Against a captivating image, the text reads that the Times (UK) has x, y and z more than their competitors. And because of that, you should "Join the Times". 

In August 2009, the Times (UK) had a daily circulation of 576,185, according to ABC figures. That's down 5.97%from August 2008. 

Murdoch wants to put a pay wall up around some of the content at the same time as it is hemorrhaging readers. Not only is the logic flawed, the money isn't right, either. Patrick Smith at paidContent has more:

Print subscribers to both Times papers already pay £22 a month, or £264 a year. That’s a good discount on the newsstand price but very few people will be happy to pay both that and an online access charge (a pdf e-edition is £90 a year).

All of this makes me wonder: Does The Times (UK) have a unique brand? The two ads I saw don't mention anything specifically about the UK. One was about having the only oceans correspondent, and the other about how they were the first to set up a dedicated Afghanistan bureau.

That suggests their goal is to become the paper of record for UK readers who want to read about international news regularly. Slap a pay wall on that and you've got a newspaper going after Economist-type readers.

Times Online readership stats seem to support that. According to comScore, 60% of Times Online readers are from outside the U.K. 

That being said, if anyone will pay for a Times Online subscription it will probably be someone in the 60% category, since they're visiting Times Online despite probably having a news outlet closer to home.

But is the Times brand strong enough to get enough people to sign up and turn a profit? Well, Rupert seems to think so.

Ben LaMothe

Published 21 September, 2009 by Ben LaMothe

Ben LaMothe is a web & social media strategist with Florida-based advertising and marketing consultancy Renaissance Creative. You can follow him on Twitter.

22 more posts from this author

Comments (2)


Nate Wood

News content is freely available from a variety of sources, and trying to charge for this content is difficult. Perhaps it might be better to develop a series of additional features/services and charge for those, with the news content being the traffic generator.Look at the Guardian and their job board (although this must surely be under pressure in the current climate). News providers - think beyond the advertising model!

I do think that it is time, though, that internet users stopped expecting everything to be free.

about 7 years ago


David F. Cox

What the Times probably still has more of than other papers is expert readers. Most of those will have strong opinions and passions. If it can turn that readership into a writership it can obtain valuable information unobtainable elsewhere, and that can be monetised. They might consider letters to the editor plus as a chargeable extra. This would turn the extended letters to the editor feature into a mixture of blogs and a forum. The increased opportunity to present their case would encourage more contributions. This could be at least interesting and educational, and might become valuable force for reform.

about 7 years ago

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