Summary:

News International is claiming that advertisers have benefited from “significant lifts in user engagement and brand recall” due to charging…

News International is claiming that advertisers have benefited from “significant lifts in user engagement and brand recall” due to charging for access to The Times‘s website.

Its claim is based on a three-month study by the research company Promise that compared reactions to three types of online environments – the paid-for Times, an unidentified free-to-access quality news site and an online portal.

According to the research, Times users were found to be more engaged with the content, had higher expectations of the quality of the content, and had a more positive response to brands.

Specifically, said the researchers, both brand and message recall on The Times’s site was found to be 21% and 18% higher than the average for non-paid sites respectively.

Furthermore, times.co.uk was scored higher in subjective ratings of “trust, believability, clarity, exclusivity, engagement, expectedness and fit”.

The research involved 1,000 subscribers to The Times’s website, and 900 non-subscribers. It was conducted between October 2010 and January 2011.

But Media Week comments: “Unfortunately, News International failed to provide details of the other open-access news sites used as a benchmark in the study.”

This study is a reminder of the continuing experimentation by newspapers charging for access to online news content.

Britain’s largest-selling regional paper, the Wolverhampton-based Express & Star, is planning to launch a “premium” website.

Its website home page will carry highlights of the day’s breaking news for free, but users will have to pay for other content as part of a bundled print-and-online subscription.

In the United States, paywalls are being erected on an almost monthly basis as publishers continue to search for a way to fund journalism.

One of the latest is at the Dallas Morning News. In a memo to staff, publisher, Jim Moroney explained why the paper would charge for access:

“The reason is straightforward: online advertising rates are insufficient at the scale of traffic generated by metro newspaper websites to support the businesses they operate.

We need to find additional and meaningful sources of revenue to sustain our profitability as we journey further into the digital marketplace…

Considering the resources we invest daily to publish the quality and the quantity of relevant and differentiated local, regional and state news and information we do, asking consumers to pay a fair price for it doesn’t really seem like such an odd notion.

Continuing to give it away for free seems to me a more peculiar idea.”

Gannett, the largest US newspaper publisher, is to continue experimenting with existing paywalls at three newspapers – the Tallahassee Democrat in Florida, the Greenville News in Greenville, South Carolina, and The Spectrum in St George, Utah.

Gannett‘s chief executive Craig Dubow told Bloomberg News: “We’re going to see more of this until we can get as exact a model as possible. We want to be able to do this and do it once.”

Meanwhile, as reported by Media Guardian last week, the New York Times will start charging “very shortly,” according to its publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.

Sources: Media Week/journalism.co.uk/Mike Orren/Gannett blog/Bloomberg News/The Guardian

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This article originally appeared in MediaGuardian.

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