Top British newspapers to charge for online content

British newspapers The Times and the Sunday Times will charge for content on their Web sites, a move following other major papers seeking to profit from online readers amid falling print revenues.

The papers, which now have one combined Web site, will be split into two sites: thetimes.co.uk and thesundaytimes.co.uk. Starting in June, readers can purchase one-day access for £1 (US$1.50) or a week's access for £2. Print subscribers will get free access to both sites, according to The Times.

Both papers are owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., which also owns The Wall Street Journal. Murdoch has supported introducing pay walls and plans to do the same for two other newspapers, The Sun and The News of the World.

Times Editor James Harding told Sky News that online journalism is not worthless. Despite free newspapers and free content on the Internet, people will pay for quality information. "For that, I think people will come to our papers," he said.

Le Monde in France said earlier this week it will begin charging for some content on March 29. It will offer a package subscription to its Web site, print edition and access to content via Apple's iPhone. That will cost €19.90 (US$26.46) per month for the first three months, then €29.90 per month. Access to the paper solely through the iPhone will cost €15 (US$19.95) per month.

Newspapers have struggled with generating new revenue as readership of print editions has fallen along with advertising revenue. But publishers have been reluctant to embrace a pay model for fear of driving readers away to competitors with free content.

Some newspapers, such as the Financial Times, are experimenting with models where a certain number of stories can be read for free before readers hit the pay wall. The New York Times said in January it will offer a limited number of free stories to readers in January 2011 and charge a flat rate for unlimited access.

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