On the same day Rupert Murdoch essentially kick-started a Sunday newspaper price war by announcing the all-new Sunday Sun would hit shelves for £0.50 (USD$0.79) – whilst simultaneously dropping the Saturday edition from £0.60 to the same price – it was announced the digital editions of his other News International titles, The Times and Sunday Times, will double in price to £4 ($6.28) a week beginning in March.
The Times’ UK paywall was erected back in June 2010, with readers initially having the choice of paying £1 ($1.57) per day for access to the site, or paying a promotional rate of £1 for 30 days’ access. Users who took this promotional rate were then bumped onto a £2 ($3.14) per week subscription once the trial period was over.
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But, in a move to drive up subscriptions before this imminent price-hike, if you sign-up before March 1, you will remain on £2 a week until 2013, giving you unlimited access to the times.co.uk, thesundaytimes.co.uk, and the iPad and Android apps, not to mention access to The Times archive dating back more than two centuries. So the updated price-plan is just for new subscribers for the time-being.
As the Guardian notes, The Times has 119,255 subscribers to its digital service, whilst 114,000 access the Sunday Times. Despite rumours that Murdoch’s daily tabloid The Sun may fall behind a paywall too, last year the title denied it was planning on charging readers to access its content digitally. Back in October, The UK’s Independent newspaper moved behind a paywall for international readers, following a trend that has seen a number of publishers seek to drive revenues due to declining newspaper sales.
It’s an interesting move for sure – News International is basically undercutting its rivals by launching a new Sunday title for more than half the price of the competition. For context, rival newspapers the Sunday Mirror and People cost £1, while the Sunday Express and the Mail on Sunday cost £1.50.
Whilst it’s clear News International is serious about winning its share of the Sunday newspaper market, which it lost when Murdoch killed his flagship News of the World paper last July following serious phone-hacking allegations, it’s looking to claw back at least some of the money through hiking the prices of its other national titles.