The Times and the Sunday Times have today unveiled their new-look websites ahead of their conversion next month to a paid-for access model. The revamped websites, Thetimes.co.uk and Thesundaytimes.co.uk will replace the combined site, Timesonline.co.uk.
The move marks the first time The Times newspaper brands have boasted separate sites and comes amid a battle among newspaper publishers to monetise their digital offerings. The websites will be accessible for registered users for an introductory four-week period, before the paywalls are put in place. Registered users must be 18 and over before they are permitted to access the sites.
The sites boast new features, which the titles believe will give them stand-out from rivals. These include live interviews on The Times site, and a fast-track booking site on The Sunday Times site. The two new websites have a more conservative look than the Times Online site, which will be phased out.
From 1 June, a charge of £1 a day or £2 a week will be introduced for access to both sites. Access to the digital services will also be included in the seven-day subscriptions of print customers to The Times and The Sunday Times. Articles on The Times and Sunday Times’ sites will not appear in searches by Google and other search engines. The sites will only display their respective homepages and not the articles, to search engines.
News International has not disclosed specific subscriber targets, though it is undoubtedly prepared for a major drop in user numbers of its websites. Payment for the sites is to be made by direct debit and the £2-a-week charge will auto-renew, which is not the case for the daily charge. James Harding, editor of The Times, said: “The site will include live interviews with the people who shape the news and exclusive video – giving readers the opportunity to get more from their favourite sections. This is just the start. We will continue to add new features to ensure that the innovation that has been central to The Times for 225 years, continues into the future.”
Separately, Roger Alton, the former editor of the Observer and the Independent, is to join the Times as joint executive editor. Alton left the Independent last month (May) following its purchase by Alexander Lebedev, the Russian millionare.