Telegraph 'will charge readers for its website'

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The Independent Online

The Telegraph is planning to follow the Times and start charging readers to use its website in the new year.

It emerged last night that the newspaper's parent company, Telegraph Media Group (TMG), has been working on a plan to boost profits by putting some of its online content behind a paywall in 2011.

A spokeswoman for TMG refused to confirm the rumours yesterday, saying: "Absolutely no decisions have been made on the introduction of a paid-content model. Like all publishers, TMG continually evaluates the developments in the digital sector."

However, insiders said the plans had been in the works "for some time", although it is understood that the Telegraph is unlikely to follow the Times by charging for all of its web content.

Dan Cryan, an analyst from Screen Digest, said: "Newspaper companies are faced with declining traditional circulation and the online advertising just isn't making up the difference. It is leading publishers to examine a series of other models, most notably paywalls."

The Telegraph's plans come only months after Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation made the Times and the Sunday Times websites subscription-only.

Last month, the group released its first official figures since introducing the paywalls in June.

Rebekah Wade, the chief executive of News International, which produces the papers, said the company was happy with 105,000 online sales, adding it showed that "large numbers of people are willing to pay for quality journalism in digital formats".

Charging online has worked for the Financial Times, where subscriptions to its website and iPad application rose 50 per cent to 180,000 in the first nine months of the year.

Mr Cryan said the FT's success came from its niche content. "Readers are willing to pay for information they can't get anywhere else," he said.

The Telegraph is believed to be targeting a strategy of "controlled consumption" where each month a few articles are available free to non-subscribers, in the hope that they will be encouraged to sign up.