Thursday, March 24, 2005

Paying for online news gives mixed results

The International Herald Tribune reports:

"Few European general-interest papers charge for basic access to their web sites, though El País in Spain is a prominent exception. More common are mixed models in which access to most news is free, with users billed for premium services such as searches of archives, or downloads of crossword puzzles. A number of newspapers also charge for providing 'e-papers' - exact electronic replicas of the day's print edition - rather than just the basic web site.

Many newspapers, including the Guardian and the Daily Mail in Britain, also require web users to register their personal details in order to gain access to some content.

One newspaper web site, that of The Times of London and its sister paper, The Sunday Times, is moving away from the subscription model. Until October, the site had charged users based outside Britain about £90 a year for access. But the service, free in Britain, gained only a few thousand international users, so the Times decided to drop the international fee for basic access, keeping it only for an e-paper version.

As a result, the number of international visitors to the Times site has surged. It attracted 4.3 million unique users worldwide in January, including 1.7 million in Britain and 1.6 million in the United States. That was more than double the unique users as recently as a year ago.

With Internet ad spending expected to grow 20 percent worldwide this year, according to Initiative, a media strategy firm, the Times and many other European newspaper Web sites seem most interested in growth, at least for now."

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