23
Apr
10

Should news websites be free of charge?

Picking up a newspaper each morning gives you the most essential bits of information about what is happening in the world around you – keeping up with changes in economics, politics, society and culture. But the UK press is changing. With the evolvement of social media and the rising power of the internet it is getting harder for the newspapers to maintain their readership.

Nearly 80% of the UK population now have internet access and use it regularly. Of those, 16 million people use the internet through mobile devices – to update statuses on various social networks or to catch up with the latest news. Twitter and co. make it easy to see what’s happening throughout the world right now – how are the newspapers supposed to keep up?

Over the last decade the newspapers have been engaged in a price war. The Times is a case in point as it has been constantly battling with The Guardian for both price and readership. However, recently The Times bucked this trend by putting its cover price up to £1.00 during the week, £1.50 on saturdays and £2.00 for the Sunday Times.

Furthermore, The Times and its complementary Sunday paper have decided to be the first published papers to charge for their online services with a £2 fee per week from June. This may come as a shock to their readers, and questions are already being raised as to how this will affect readership and if the website will yield a profit.

So, increasing the price for the paper and announcing a pay-per-view arrangement on their website, all within a few months – the stakes are high for The Times. However, they might not have made the worst decision according to a study by Baba Shiv, a marketing professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business. He argues that prices are changing people’s experiences of a product and therefore the outcomes from consuming this product. Research has shown that people are mentally influenced by the price of a product. For example, Shiv has shown that ‘people who had paid a higher price for an energy drink, such as Red Bull, were able to solve more brain teasers than those who paid a discounted price for the same product.’ Are consumers being psychologically deceived by pricing? If so, how will it affect The Times?


It is well known that people are curious. It’s human nature. But users will ask what is so different about the website, what does it offer that others don’t? This curiosity will drive traffic to both sites during the first few days of launch. After they have experienced the digital presence they will be more likely to consider a repetitive purchase of that service.

One thing that will happen is that the changes will reposition the newspaper in the marketplace. The Times has been known as qualitative paper and it will continue to create qualitative content. It promises to increase the engagement of its online users by offering the opportunity to talk to staff, writers and experts to create deep and intelligent conversation.

Should others follow in The Times footsteps? Only time will tell, the battle of gaining and maintaining both paper and digital readership will continue to change the landscape of the UK press as we have known it.


Lisa Beck

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