Times to introduce subs fee for online crossword

The Times and Sunday Times are to become the first UK newspapers to charge for website content that is currently offered free.

According to Silicon.com, they will become part-subscription sites, in an attempt to claw back News International’s new media investment.

The first step in the project, a £10 yearly fee for access to The Times crossword, will launch in the next couple of weeks. Katie Vanneck, publisher of The Times Online, believes the move will be a success. “It’s a very strong brand and a unique piece of content,” she says.

News International is keen to wrest back control of its intellectual property. The group’s owner, Rupert Murdoch, has been publicly sceptical about the Web’s ability to drive revenue for his titles.

The Financial Times, The Guardian and Reuters have all recently dipped their toes into the subscription waters, but have shied away from charging for main news content, sticking to additional “added value” services such as SMS.

Vanneck admits it will lose some of the site’s estimated 1 million users, but believes valued readers will stay. “A lot of our users are very loyal to The Times brand,” she adds.

Sally Watson is chief reporter at Silicon.com

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