The Times (and Sunday Times), they are a-changin'
The newspaper industry has been in turmoil for years, as readers stop buying dead wood and switch to websites for more relevant and timely output. And because reading news on websites is, by and large, free. There have been attempts by newspapers to charge for content, very few of them successful - only the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times have managed it successfully, because their output is niche and valuable to its readership, who use the information to inform them on financial dealings.
But what about the world of broadsheets and tabloids, the mainstream newspapers, where the same stories are carried by hundreds of sources? Rupert Murdoch is mad as hell and he's not going to take it anymore. Several weeks ago, plans to put The Times (and Sunday Times) behind a paywall were announced. The blurb boasted: "We’ll bring you unrivalled coverage of everything that matters – from the election, to foreign news, to arts and culture, to the World Cup – in a more vibrant and stimulating way than ever before."
Well, the new site is now here and available to view for free, before a paywall is raised in a few weeks' time. Here's how the current site looks:
And here's the new version you'll soon have to pay for:
What do we think? The first thing you notice is how much white space there is; tabs and sub-menus have been hidden away under general headings, with just one news story and one picture story dominating above the fold - an attempt to preserve the printed appearance of the content? Possibly. Another reason might be how it displays on tablet devices; the multi-column view has a similar feel to the Guardian's recent revamp, a design that works well on a PC, but is tailored perfectly for tablet devices like the iPad, where newspapers see plenty of consumption int he future:
As shiny as it looks, the paywall could bring around the end of days for the Times; all of the Times' content will go uncrawled by Google's spider.With no content indexed and ranked, there's no route of discovery, and taking the first step to becoming a loyal reader will mean you either pay on the spot (£1 a day or £2 for the week) or buying the physical paper. Removing all free and, more importantly, viral online promotion of a website seems like business suicide for traditional media.
Oh, and their lead tech story is the Currys/Apple story. The story we published a month ago. Finger on the pulse, that's what you're expected to pay for.