Assistant editor Tom Whitwell told an audience at the Association of Online Publishers yesterday that News International was fully aware that imposing a paid-content model would dramatically decrease user numbers, but that it was better in the long-term to differentiate in an industry characterised by an unsustainable proliferation of “showbiz gossip”, “commodity news” and “drive-by traffic”.
He said The Times was eschewing this in favour of building a close-knit and highly “influential” community, that “advertisers would be keen to access”.
“We didn’t want to go down the route of flashy display ads that our peers are doing,” he said. “We talked to our readers throughout the research process, asking them what they wanted, and we found that they wanted less clutter, less links, and less adverts.”
Responding to a question about a potential lack of interaction as a result of decreasing user numbers, Whitwell said, “We all know that having thousands of comments on a story doesn’t necessarily make for good debate. It’s what you take out and how you interpret it.”
CRM will be a key pillar of The Times’ paid content strategy, with times.co.uk staff, including journalists, fully accessible to subscribers, while fostering loyalty among the next generation will be helped by spin-offs and offline activity, such as The Times’ schools spelling competition.
This story first appeared on newmediaage.co.uk