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You’ll soon have to pay for online news at The Times

So the big talking point in media and PR circles is the news that The Times and Sunday Times will start charging for online content from June. And there are further hints from ‘Murdoch Towers’ that they’ll start wanting paid subscriptions for other newspaper sites over time.

With newspapers generally in decline it’s a bold move (as everyone keeps saying). But will it work?  Especially when other papers such as The Guardian seem to be using the opposite strategy – keep  your content free and spread it far and wide so you can rake in the advertising.

Add the fact that one of the country’s biggest online news sources – the BBC News site – is ‘free’ at the point of consumption and it’s pretty tempting to believe that people will just turn away from paid content and click through to one of the free alternatives.

I agree with those who say that yes, for ‘bog standard’ news of the day stories, people will go to any number of sites to get the content for free. 

So a site such as The Times will have to offer something different – with additional value – to get away with charging for content.   In the way that the FT, with its emphasis on company and financial news, has successfully introduced charges for online content.  As have many of the specialist trade media publications.

It’s going to be interesting to see just what additional value Murdoch’s sites will deliver to keep punters paying subscriptions.  Exclusives and scoops?  Big name columnists?  I’m pretty stumped as to what they could do. Which is probably why I work in PR and don’t have a top job in publishing.