The Irish Times is introducing subscription packages for its digital content from Monday, February 23rd. It will become the first national daily newspaper in Ireland to introduce a metered subscription for its digital content.
Kevin O'Sullivan, the editor of The Irish Times, said the move will "support future investment in journalism" across both print and digital.
The subscriptions are being introduced because the company does not believe it can sustain its online journalism through advertising income alone.
Readers will continue to be able to browse irishtimes.com and read up to 10 articles every week on any one computer or device. This means many online readers who decide not to subscribe will be unaffected by the change.
Readers who wish to read more than 10 articles per week on the same computer or device will be invited, by an on-screen message, to subscribe in order to continue reading.
Two main packages
There are two main digital subscription packages. A Standard Digital subscription, at €12 a month, gives readers unlimited access to irishtimes.com on up to three devices simultaneously.
It includes full access to the archives of The Irish Times, dating back to 1859, as well as the digital versions of the Simplex and Crosaire crosswords, invitations to subscriber-only events, eBooks and special offers. It also includes IT Sunday, a new subscriber-only digital newsletter.
Under a Premium Digital subscription at €16 a month, readers receive everything that is included in the Standard Digital package plus the daily Irish Times Digital Edition – this is the “ePaper” that replicates how the title appears in print each day.
There are also two further offers that combine digital access with home delivery of the newspaper. The Complete Print & Digital package costs €50 a month, and a Weekend Print & Digital package €20 a month.
Readers who choose not to subscribe will still be able to freely access many parts of the site, including the homepage and section pages, videos, podcasts, liveblogs, photo galleries and blog posts. These will not count towards their quota of free weekly articles.
An article accessed via a link from social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter will also continue to be free. Access through search will be free, though subject to the daily limit of 5 imposed by most search engines. Each article accessed though search engines and social networks will count towards the quota of 10 articles per week.
There will still be a capacity to swipe through articles on The Irish Times mobile app, however only a preview of the article will be shown.
If the user clicks “continue reading”, the article will then count towards the weekly quota.
After seven days, the meter will reset and readers can access another set of free articles.
The "metered" subscription model is similar to that adopted by other newspapers at the quality end of the market, such as the New York Times in the US and the Financial Times and the Daily Telegraph in the UK.
“The scale of digital change is phenomenal and it has hit every single media organisation. It goes beyond newspapers into television, radio and film,” O’Sullivan said.
“We have all had to question and review how we operate, how we serve our readers and how we fund our journalism.”
He said The Irish Times was not trying to force readers into buying digital subscriptions. "We believe loyal readers will be happy to pay for full access. At the same time, we will continue to offer a large amount of free content."
The site may be “opened up” on occasion, with the meter turned off, in the event of national crises, weather emergencies for example.
"This endeavour will ensure The Irish Times maintains its quality, standards of journalism and editorial values into the future," O'Sullivan added.
The positive response to “longer, deeper reads” such as the recent Generations and Anatomy of a Car Crash news feature series, as well as the popularity of interactive content from the Irish Times Data team, shows there is demand for “more immersive” journalism, he said.
"People come to The Irish Times and irishtimes.com for big news events and for our original journalism. We will provide them with the breaking news, in-depth analysis and context that they expect from us. We are also making the digital experience a richer one."
The Irish Times will offer the subscription packages through a “Subscribe” tab on irishtimes.com from Monday, February 23rd, when more information will be available on the site.
Readers will be able to sample the Standard Digital and Premium Digital products in a one-month trial for €1.
Irish Times digital subscriptions: Packages on offer
Standard Digital: €12 a month
Standard Digital allows unlimited access to all content on irishtimes.com on computer, tablet and mobile, and unrestricted access to The Irish Times smartphone app.
Subscribers also have access to: The Irish Times digital Newspaper Archive, with more than 10 million Irish Times articles dating back over 150 years The digital version of Simplex and Crosaire Crosswords
IT Sunday, a subscriber-only service delivered direct to the subscriber’s email inbox and available on irishtimes.com
A subscriber benefits package, including eBooks featuring the best of Irish Times writing, special offers and discounts from the company’s partners and invitations to subscriber-only events.
Premium Digital: €16 a month
Premium Digital has all of the features of Standard Digital, along with daily access to The Irish Times Digital Edition, the ePaper replica of the print edition viewable on desktops, tablets and smartphones. It is available six days a week from 4am.
Complete Print & Digital: €50 a month
This is the Premium Digital package combined with home delivery of the newspaper six days a week, available in certain areas. The newspaper can be delivered to a subscriber’s home or office before 7.30am.
Weekend Print & Digital: €20 a month
This is the Premium Digital package with Saturday-only home delivery of the Weekend edition of the newspaper, available in certain areas.
More information is available here.
Correction: An earlier version of this article mis-stated the position in relation to Irish Times articles accessed free through social networks and search engines. Although access through social networks is free and access through search is free (subject to the daily limit of 5 imposed by most search engines), each article increments the meter.