Posts Tagged ‘The Times

10
Sep
10

Has Mr Murdoch scored a spectacular own goal?

MacBook Pro displaying The Times website.I’m an avid Times reader, from the headlines to the Cricket, and I’m especially rabid if there’s a new restaurant revue, or an opinion leader from Giles Coren, A.A.Gill, Jeremy Clarkson or Alpha Mummy.

It’s been almost five years since I had a regular subscription to a newspaper delivered to my house and, if I’m honest, quite a lot of that had something to do with The Times moving to the horrific tabloid layout that’s plagued its paper version ever since. I’m now a digital reader – I rarely buy a newspaper in print form, unless I’m travelling or fancying an idyllic weekend curled up with tea, papers and good books; something my iPhone and my obsessive e-mail checking syndrome almost always curtails.

As a digital reader I enjoyed Times Online, it wasn’t quite as pretty as the Guardian, or quite as interactive as the FT, but when it was redesigned I started to get excited. The layout was clean, easy to navigate and retained a certain sense that you’re reading news rather than just seeing news between a hundred flashing adverts, social media side bars and endless inane comments; but then along came Paywall Day.

Some predicted it would be like all the lights going out (you won’t be able to survive without it), others (sneakily calling themselves the majority) thought otherwise, but a month and a bit in, the Paywall hasn’t destroyed The Times, at least not yet.

The most obvious change was that the amount of articles, carrying significant amounts of user generated comment, dropped dramatically; the blame americans/europeans/arabs/the left (delete as applicable) ramblers and loons have been silenced, replaced instead by people that understand the importance of an argument and capital letters. Threaded comment system has also made it possible to engage users directly, resulting in branch topics and a real ability to pull up those who haven’t thought their comments through or are, in your opinion, just plain wrong.

The quality of the articles has also increased – almost all feature pieces have video, photo galleries and associated stories surrounding them; something that the previous incarnation of the site used to struggle with, So it’s here that I’m seeing the real value of the subscription; The Times is now regularly rivalling the BBC on the integrated nature of its copy, and that can only be an improvement to the often trivialised articles that appear as fillers on other news sites.

So it’s all good? Well not quite. There’s no denying, it’s a quieter site than it used to be – there’s still a significant amount of similar content available free elsewhere, and it’s clear that The Times is going to have to work hard to get people into its site. What is interesting is that with the exception of the initial trial period when the website launched there’s now no sample, no tasters, no giveaways – nothing, nadda, zip. If you want the Times, great, if you’re not sure they give no reasons to reassure. It’s this lack of a reason to buy that I think is their main barrier to increased subscription sales; only time will tell if Murdoch’s real conviction that content should be paid for acts as a limiter or an enabler for The Times. What is for certain is that other than rumours that other News International publications might follow, The Times is currently standing alone on the shoreline, and only time will tell if the tide washes over them or they change it’s direction.

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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