The Times paywall goes up bringing with it the end of the free ride

The Times, one of the UK's largest and oldest newspapers, has raised its paywall on Friday; shutting out anyone who isn’t willing to pay and bringing with it the dawn of, what could be, a very different online experience.

From 2 July 2010, visitors to the site will be prompted to pay £1 for the first 30 days of access and then £2 a week thereafter. Users will also be able to opt for a 24-hour pass for £1 as well.

The news is likely to drastically reduce the number of visitors to the site, who are expected to flock elsewhere for free news rather than opting to pay for content.

However Rupert Murdoch, the paper's owner, has said on a number of occasions that the expected lack of visitors to the site doesn't bother him.

He is instead hoping that The Times readers will follow Sky subscribers (also Murdoch owned) and be happy to pay for "quality" content above and beyond what is freely available.

The News International owner also believes that those that are prepared to pay the £8 a month fee, will be considerably more valuable to him than traffic generated from Google and other search engines.

If 20 per cent of the newspaper readers a month (100,000) signed up to the new site, that would still generate £800,000 a month in subscriptions revenue under the new scheme, plus it is likely advertisers will be charged more to access the very niche audience the site will now have.

Everyone that signs up to the new service is asked where they live, their age, and their sex - all incredibly valuable data when it comes to advertising against.

Although the paper hasn't confirmed whether it will be tracking readers through the site, if it does, it will also know people's interests as well - another very strong element to impressing advertisers.

Meanwhile other newspapers around the globe are watching with a keen eye.

While some other papers like the Wall Street Journal and the FT already offer content behind a paywall, to date most have been based on specific niche areas of content like business or sport.

However, if The Times and Sunday Times paywall works, and proves to be successful, it could mean the end to the free internet as we know it, with big media companies racing to go behind a paid curtain as well. 

The end result could turn the Internet back to the AOL days, where people had to pay to access the web on top of their phone bills.

Do you think that will happen? Are you prepared to pay for content on the web? Let us know what you think in the comments below:



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