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News sites adopt content charging

Online dailies may not be free for much longer

The Guardian newspaper announced yesterday it would be jumping on the pay-per-view bandwagon by charging visitors to access content on its website.

The move, which means people will have to dig that bit deeper into their pockets to access information, follows the decision by The Daily Telegraph to charge readers £5 for access to its online fantasy football game.

Although The Guardian would not confirm which areas would remain free, it is expected the paper will initially charge for admittance to its crossword and puzzle sections, which The Times newspaper confirmed it is also planning to do in the near future.

"We are looking at a host of different things. Certain parts could be charged for, certain bits won't be," said Simon Waldman director of digital publishing at The Guardian in a press statement.

American newspaper The Wall Street Journal has for several months been successfully charging visitors for content on its site, gaining around 600,000 subscribers each paying a £42 annual fee.

"Charging for content is fine as long as it's worth the money. If charges are too high then readers will simply go back to the print version and in the long term if handled incorrectly it could be damaging to e-commerce and internet use," said a spokesperson at the Department of Trade and Industry.

Earlier this month, UK internet company 54Zero announced an internet charging scheme which uses a premium-rate phone line to charge for content.

But the DTI warned that consumers want value. The success of such sites will depend on the value of the content, and companies must be careful not to overcharge people.


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