The relaunch of The Times and The Sunday Times web site and apps, announced today, raised eyebrows among media commentators.
Alongside a redesign, the newspaper has shifted to a structure of publishing thrice daily, rather than on a rolling basis. That structural change is one of a number of things that I believe have wider implications for the media industry going forward:
1) This does not stop The Times from breaking news (as Digiday, for instance, has suggested). It does though limit the newspaper from breaking stories during slow news periods. I know a journalist at a rival national newspaper who often publishes on Saturday evenings when his stories get a lot of attention because not much else is going on.
2) The value of multimedia content will increase. If The Times isn’t putting information out fastest it is logical that it might invest more in proprietary photos and video that will act as a pull to the site. If that becomes the case expect more activity on the newspaper’s Instagram and Facebook feeds.
3) Power has shifted to the writers. The video to launch the digital redesign featured Giles Coren, Eleanor Mills, Lord Daniel Finkelstein, Pandora Sykes, Henry Winter and Camilla Long, chosen no doubt as rockstar writers who epitomise the management team’s strategy to get consumers to pay for the newspaper group to”review, analyse and comment”. I’ve long-speculated that pay walls would shift power from media organisations to the journalists they employ and this is the clearest sign that we remain headed in that direction.
4) This is mortal wound for The Sunday Times. The journalists named above were a careful mix of staff from The Times and The Sunday Times. The editorial letter about the changes was signed by both John Witherow & Martin Ivens, editors of the respective newspapers. Despite that, the decision to merge The Times and The Sunday Times websites exposes how archaic the idea of a larger Sunday paper is to most people. Lives have changed and even if we do have more time to read at weekends, the Financial Times’s two-day edition, published on a Saturday, makes much more sense for readers and advertisers. Expect News UK to follow if it can bear to give up the iconic Sunday Times brand.
5) The paywall will go if this doesn’t work. News UK has already dropped The Sun’s paywall and this must be the last chance for its broadsheet newspapers to make content pay. Even if it does work, I suspect that micro-payments will shift the market to a pay-as-you-go model over time. Startups like Blendle show the way that particularly young Europeans want to pay for content.
As always I welcome views on these ideas, particularly any contrary views. Just comment below.
Image courtesy of flickr user xlibber