The Times (They Are A Changing)

The new look Times (UK) website has been published today at http://www.thetimes.co.uk . This is a little taster of the site that is going to become a paid subscription  – a bold step by The Times which will see users paying to read the news which is also accessible for free on most other news websites.

In order to attract customers and retain their current online reader community, the Times are going to have to produce something rather different – I won’t go to detail about the pro’s and con’s of this move but feel free to leave your thoughts about this below. So what have they done?

At first look I like it – it gives the feel that you are actually reading a newspaper instead of a web page. It may not be the same as putting your feet up with a broadsheet, but, as a lot of us are laptop users, it comes a close seecond. This format is not something I have come across before for other web sites.  It gives the overall feel of a front page, but with countless options to all the other website extras. Customisable views to give you the option of changing the format to a list of articles or an overall sitemap. Readers have access to three main sections: The Times, The Sunday Times and My Times +. The first two are self explanatory. The latter is a place to browse exclusive offers and competitions on offer to you as a subscriber. This is also the place to manage your account and choose which bulletins you would like to receive throughout the week – the supplements you usually find in your paper.

I’m assuming that those subscribing to this new format are likely to do so instead of buying a newspaper. It doesn’t appear that readers would now require both. There’s nothing I like more than to relax with the Times crossword, so I was relieved to see that daily Times and Times 2 crosswords are also published on the website. Previously, you had to be registered with the crossword club for access and you are still able to register with the club for more, but the daily basics are there for subscribers to solve. Phew.

Subscribers also have free access to a number of iPhone applications for use on the move…in my opinion a good part of the service. If users are going to subscribe then they need an easily accessible portable version of the paper as well as access from a laptop/desktop PC. I hope these are also released to non-subscribers as individual purchases in the iTunes store, however whether this is feasible I’m not sure. Paying a one of App Store cost does not seem to be as fair as a longer period of subscription? I also hope they will publish apps for Android and Blackberry too – it seems a little unfair to confine them to iPhone users.

I am unable to find the subscription costs for this website for when the initial review period is over – sneaky. Tempting us in and then taking it away from us is a sure way for us to not consider the cost, but the experience that we may miss. If anyone knows then let me know.

Am I tempted by the subscription to the Times? Well surprisingly yes. This strikes me as a little odd. I buy the newspaper probably 3 or 4 times a week, mostly at weekends when I have the time to read it. I check the website once in a while, but not as much as other websites offering news. I think what has changed, is that you are experiencing the Times as you would by buying the paper. Subscribing and setting as my home page, and using the iPhone apps would also probably encourage me to read it more often. Though I can’t help but feel that my motives are based on the fact that something that I occasionally use is being taken away from me!

Take a look at the website and let me know your thoughts. For now, I’m off to do the electronic Times 2 with a brew.

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