News Corp increases number of paying Times readers

LONDON Tue Mar 29, 2011 2:29pm EDT

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LONDON (Reuters) - The number of consumers paying to read The Times has increased over the past year as new digital subscribers have more than compensated for a drop in print circulation, owner News Corp said on Tuesday.

The world's biggest news publisher began charging readers for access to the websites of UK titles The Times and The Sunday Times in July, in an exercise being monitored by other consumer media, most of which are still free online.

News International, News Corp's British newspaper unit, said the total number of people paying to read The Times -- print or digital -- had increased 3 percent over the last year.

That was fueled by a 60 percent rise in digital subscriptions, it said, adding The Sunday Times would likely increase its total paid readership by July.

Business news providers have long charged readers for online content but consumer publishers have been reluctant to do so, fearing a mass loss of readership and advertising revenue.

The Times and The Sunday Times lost more than 90 percent of their online readers when they started charging, but said they were obliged to do so to pay for quality journalism.

News International said on Tuesday it now had 79,000 monthly digital subscribers to The Times and The Sunday Times combined, including through its Apple iPad app and its edition for Amazon's Kindle e-reader.

The Times sells about half a million physical newspapers per day, and is one of Britain's more popular quality dailies.

The New York Times launched a pay model for digital access on Monday. It is less restrictive than that of the London-based Times, allowing consumers to read 20 articles per month on its website for free.

(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; editing by David Hulmes)

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