Building digital products that people are willing to pay for

“I am bored sick of talking about paywalls,” said Tom Whitwell, editorial director of Times Digital. “Instead of debating payment models we need to learn how to build digital products that people are willing to pay for,” he continued.

by WAN-IFRA Staff | April 17, 2012

The Times launched a controversial paid online strategy in summer 2010, which gives no access to non-subscribers. “Every commentator told us we were wrong,” said Whitwell, but he believes it is necessary to be “fearless,” and now the paper has 130,000 paying digital subscribers.

Readers were surveyed about how best to charge online and the biggest thing that came out of the discussions was the need for simplicity: a straightforward system where people knew what they were getting for their money.

Subscribers pay £2 a week for web access plus mobile, £4 a week for web, mobile and tablet, or £6 per week for all digital access plus a daily print edition.

This is working because of the quality of the paper’s journalism, said Whitwell. “The only way we can charge £4 a week to read our stuff is because of our journalism,” he stressed.

“The iPad has been a really remarkable success,” Whitwell said. There are 60,000 people who buy the iPad edition each morning, he added. A new edition of the paper is released on the iPad app each day, similar to the print edition, and it is not updated throughout the day. “I think there’s something very special and distinctive about an edition,” Whitwell said. “It’s about reading the Times in the best, easiest, quickest way possible.”

The iPad app also offers an “extraordinary opportunity” for advertisers, Whitwell said. According to a survey of readers, the average income of the audience is £109,000: they are high income people reading the Times brand on an iPad, so there is significant potential for targeted ads.

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