12 min

Interesting design and function plans by the UK's The Times

The Times UK may be the best example of a newspaper/digital media org that is making a profit.

These are articles are enlightening. But can the same principles work at a smaller daily paper?

I would say that The Times UK's strategies are more applicable to smaller dailies than the ideas used by the NY Times and WaPo.

Although, I still think that their website could be designed simpler and faster.


July 2016 update


In his 11th floor office at News UK, Witherow, who became editor of the Times in 2013, immediately references the Rusbridger 60,000 prediction and notes that the Times and Sunday Times now has more than 182,000 digital-only subscribers “and we charge quite a lot of money”.

He sees the Guardian’s £49-a-year membership scheme (heralded by Guardian Media Group as a beacon of hope, with 50,000 readers registered) as merely a stepping stone to a subscription model. “Appealing for donations of £49 is not the answer, because it's not enough. You need a million people donating £49 to pay for the journalism at the Guardian which is very good but it's expensive,” he says. “They have to really rethink their model.”

Witherow notes that his readers are paying around £350-a-year for their subs. “If [The Guardian] want to ask people to donate that's fine but they are going to have to donate more and it just seems to me that it's a gradual process that they are heading towards a paywall, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's always been my view that digital would end up like newspapers, a combination of advertising and paid-for content.”

Charging for content has created a “harmonious circle” at the Times titles, by generating funds to “invest in journalism”, he claims. “We are trying to hire the best possible journalists we can because people will only pay those sort of amounts for top quality journalism.”

Good thoughts, but this also helps:

Certainly there is a confidence to the Times that is hard to find elsewhere on old Fleet Street. Its print circulation – aided by its comparatively cheap £1.40 cover price – has risen for nine consecutive months year-on-year and stands at 449,151.

An increase in print subscribers is fascinating. Has the digital paywall led to an increase in print subscribers?

Are TheTimes.co.uk readers interested in the Slow News Movement, which features a diminished emphasis on breaking news and a greater emphasis on detailed analysis, published at scheduled times?

Witherow says that being part of a profitable organisation is a major part of improved morale.

... he believes that although “one or two” news outlets will remain suited to a free model, charging for content “ultimately makes sense for all newspapers” because “news is a valuable commodity and people will respect it more if they have to pay for it”.

It was once argued that only news outlets with a business audience could persuade readers (or the employers of their readers) to pay for online content. But Witherow says that the fevered contemporary news climate contributes to a willingness to pay for high-quality reporting and analysis of general news. “What is happening (in world news) is both terrible and good for journalism in the sense that there's a huge thirst out there for explanation.”

The Times’ editorial strategy, heavily informed by the stated wishes of its readers in surveys, is to abandon attempts to compete in the crowded market for breaking news and fall back on more considered reporting, analysis and opinion pieces. “People feel buried in rolling news, there’s lots of free stuff out there,” says Newman. “Actually what they want is for someone to help them to get to what matters, to cut through everything else that’s going on.”

The Times’ editorial strategy, heavily informed by the stated wishes of its readers in surveys, is to abandon attempts to compete in the crowded market for breaking news and fall back on more considered reporting, analysis and opinion pieces. “People feel buried in rolling news, there’s lots of free stuff out there,” says Newman. “Actually what they want is for someone to help them to get to what matters, to cut through everything else that’s going on.”

Particularly popular is the 5pm update, aimed especially at smartphone users on the homeward commute. It’s an alternative to the London Evening Standard and other regional titles.

Regarding comment sections on the site:

While many open news websites struggle to moderate abuse in their comments sections, the Times has relatively few such problems. “Readers can use screen names but they know that they have given their details to us – that’s a real incentive to act in a reasonable way,” says Hunter. This helps in building relationships between the paper’s staff and the readers, which can be further developed at live events aimed at members of the Times+ subscription loyalty scheme.

It makes sense that comment sections are more civil, intelligent, and useful, since a paywall represents a large barrier to entry.

About Brexit coverage:

While its stablemates, the Sun and Sunday Times, backed the Leave campaign, the Times chose to support Remain – but only after a long period of covering both sides of the argument to a degree that left commentators guessing on the paper’s allegiance.

The determination not to pursue an agenda – unlike some other papers – fits with the business strategy. Witherow, editor of the Sunday Times for 19 years and of the Times for three, might not have backed the winning horse but he takes a long-term view. “The paper benefited from that approach because other papers quite early on took a particular line and pursued it editorially and I think our readers just wanted to hear the arguments,” he says. “This story is going to dominate our lives for years. Journalistically that's exciting, the challenge is to explain it to people as best we can and to make it interesting, because some of it is going to get very nitty gritty.”

A bad prediction by someone at The Guardian years ago:

Six years ago, in a debate on BBC Radio 4, Alan Rusbridger, then editor-in-chief of the Guardian, faced off the then Sunday Times editor John Witherow and described the new digital paywall model established by the Times and the Sunday Times as a “vault of darkness” which might generate as few as 60,000 subscribers.

“We shouldn’t kid ourselves that this is going to be the panacea,” sniffed Rusbridger, comparing the statistic to the 32 million browsers then accessing his paper’s site every month. Today, the Guardian site has grown to 155 million monthly browsers and more than 10 million a day. But its publisher, Guardian Media Group, yesterday declared the paper’s annual losses at £68.7m, compared to £14.7m the previous year. In total, the company lost an eye-watering £173m.

By contrast, the Times and Sunday Times last week reported record subscriber numbers – 413,600 across print and digital. This is the basis for a business that declared a pre-tax profit of £10.9m in its last financial results, having made annual losses of more than £70m prior to the installation of its paywall.

Quality writing, paywall, slow news movement (scheduled digital publishing times), clean and simple web and app design for comfortable reading, these might be the keys for a media org to survive today.

March 30, 2016 post:

Other commentary:


The Times of London and Sunday Times on Wednesday launched new phone and tablet apps, and a new website, all focused on publishing online in editions that will be updated four times a day.

There will be a fresh issue early in the morning, followed by updates at 9 a.m., noon, and 5 p.m. — all times when the Times’ traffic tends to peak as readers wake up, arrive at work, eat lunch, and commute home.

The bulk of the content will be published in the first early-morning edition, but stories will be added and updated as needed throughout the day.

“Hitting these times gives us a great opportunity to report more in-depth, to get things right, to provide analysis on the breaking news that happens throughout the day, but also to serve readers at the times they want it,” Hunter said. “They want a package of news so they feel up-to-date. We recognize that people might check their smartphones a hundred times per day, but they’re not checking for news a hundred times per day.”

The Times and Sunday Times are both published behind a hard paywall, and it’s difficult to read their content without paying for it.

The Times spent a year and a half developing its new products. Working with a consultant, it conducted 12 weeks of interviews and discussions with staffers, current readers, and potential future readers before it even began coding any of the products.

On average, readers spend about 45 minutes with the Times’ tablet app on weekdays, and spend more than 65 minutes with it on Sundays. The Times’ website averages 1.2 visits per reader per day.

“It’s finite. It’s finishable. It’s a clear package that contains a breadth of content, but also depth where appropriate. It’s easy to navigate, clearly delineated,” Petrie said.

Other news organizations, such as Quartz and The Economist, have created finite products, because readers often say they’re overwhelmed by the unending stream of content found online.

“We’re a paid-for proposition in a market where practically everyone else is free,” Hunter said. “We think breaking news is commoditized. It’s very difficult to make people pay for breaking news, and we’re emphatic in our belief that quality journalism should be paid for.”

The Times’ research also helped it decide to emphasize its slower, edition-based approach. It will be ditching features like live blogs, which analytics and interviews suggested readers weren’t fans of.

The Times also commissioned a new font — Times Digital — for the apps and site, which is meant to be read on screens. (Fun fact: The Times actually commissioned the creation of Times New Roman in 1931, when it was looking for a font that was easier to read on newsprint.)

Web design thought from the NL article:

  • Reader feedback led the Times to design its website as one long scrolling page instead of a homepage with separate section pages. “Readers told us they wanted to find things very simply and easily, and that was the most important thing,” Hunter said.

Simple and easy, which translates into user-friendly. Good design can do that.

Another article about this:

“Readers don’t come to us for breaking news; they can go to the BBC and Twitter for that, which are free,” said Alan Hunter, The Times head of digital. “They come to us for the authority of our reporting, opinion and analysis. Breaking news has become a commodity, and it’s hard to charge people for it. We believe in the power of digital editions.”

While The Times has run live blogs and other forms of breaking news, they haven’t had good uptake, according to Hunter. “People talk about content shock and the feeling of being bombarded with a torrent of news day in, day out, hour by hour. There’s a feeling they can’t keep up. We want to help them make sense of it and ensure our readers know what’s important,” he added.

Slowing its digital news metabolism to spend longer producing in-depth articles for the Web, comes along with a radical design overhaul of The Times and Sunday Times Websites, which have been separate (and unresponsive) since 2010. The previous reader experience was somewhat disjointed, with different designs and branding on each of the sites, compared to the tablet and smartphone apps. “We had a complicated estate,” said Hunter.

The new website has been designed to give a cleaner user experience

A website that is cleaner, simpler, and easy to use. All positives for creating a reader-friendly experience.

Yet someone who works in media and who apparently does not understand good design tweeted:

New site design for 'The Times of London' is so dull. May appeal to older subscribers - but what about under 50s?

A nonsensical statement, unless that person believes that only people over the age of 50 understand good design. That media-tweeter does not understand that articles that are mainly text should be served simply.

The limited view of this article:


... shows a clean, simple design. How can easy-to-use be dull?

The webpagetest.org results for that limited view article:

From: Dulles, VA - Chrome - Cable - 3/31/2016, 1:18:45 PM
Fully Loaded - First View:

  • 7.351 seconds
  • 72 requests
  • 1,326 KB
  • cost = $$$

Wow, only three dollar signs. That's impressive.

Stunningly, only 72 requests contained within that single article page. Maybe the full article for a subscriber would contain more.

Relatively speaking for media orgs, those webpagetest.org results are amazing.

Media people who do not understand web bloat should not have a say in how a website is designed because they would only make things worse.

#media #design #web #mobile #app #business

From JR's : articles
2161 words - 13457 chars - 12 min read
created on
updated on - #
source - versions - backlinks

Related articles
Digital media and web services unbundling their products - Jun 04, 2014
The case for print journalism - Sep 20, 2016
The Best Answer to the Web vs. App Debate is Both - Mar 03, 2014
Decline of the Mobile Web - April 2014 - Apr 10, 2014
Tablet-based restaurant menus - Mar 03, 2014
more >>

A     A     A     A     A

© 2013-2017 JotHut - Online notebook

current date: Sep 28, 2022 - 5:13 a.m. EDT