The Times of London was the first general interest newspaper in Britain to go behind a paywall, making the move to a paid content model in 2010.
The model, which many industry commentators had criticised at the time, delivered a profit – the newspaper’s books went from showing a combined loss of £70 million in 2009 to an operating profit of £1.7 million in 2014.
But being radical is as much about what you don’t do as it is about what you choose to do, explained Alan Hunter, head of digital, The Times and Sunday Times, speaking at the Media Subscriptions Summit in London.
“When we look at our past paywall, it was probably too hard,” he adds, adding that it “did establish in readers’ minds that you need to pay.”
The Times doesn’t chase breaking news, as its readers often come to the title for in-depth analysis after hearing the news elsewhere. The journalists are also not obligated to write headlines for SEO where it risks to compromise the journalistic value of a story, said Hunter, nor is The Times “all in” on social media.
In an effort to perfect this clean reading experience, The Times has also removed pull quotes from its online stories. While in print they serve a clear function, drawing people’s eyes to a particular story, they serve no purpose online, explained Hunter.
The newsroom is also planning to undergo a content review to identify the formats and stories that work best for its subscribers.
What’s New in Publishing: The good, the bad and the ugly of launching a paywall in 2018