The Sun to follow Telegraph with paywall — will punters pay for a tabloid online?

The dribble of newspapers asking their readers to pay for content on either side of the Atlantic has turned into something of a rush of late. Yesterday evening the Telegraph followed the Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle, as all followed the New York Times metered model, and said it was to erect a paywall. News International swiftly followed that with an announcement of its own as it revealed plans to charge for The Sun later this year.

The question is will  people pay for a tabloid newspaper online though? It is a question we will find out an answer to soon enough.

Mike Darcey, chief executive of News International said last night that “the second half of 2013 is a fairly safe bet” for the introduction of a tabloid paywall.

A paywall at The Sun will see the tabloid join its stablemate The Times in asking readers to pay for content. It will be a big shift for The Sun’s 30 million monthly users and will likely create ripples in the market. You have to wonder if the oft mentioned paywall plans of Trinity Mirror for its The Daily Mirror tabloid will now swing into action.

At the Sun, Darcey said the current position of free content online was now “untenable” although he gave no exact details of the model that the tabloid will use. The Times has been criticised by some for its anti-social media paywall that gives zero content away from free. This has hit the number of visitors to its site as we reported last week — its reach was revealed to have been drastically reduced.

What we do know is that the idea of a paywall for The Sun is not a new one. It is one that has been on the agenda of News International for sometime and if it hadn’t been for the phone hacking debacle springing up and so dramatically sinking the News of the World it might have done this much sooner.

Cast you mind back to the pre-phone hacking days of 2010 when News International launched a paywall for the News of the World – charging £1 a day or £1.99 for a month.

The question I asked back then (and ask again) was this: is anyone going to pay to read a tabloid online? I said then that I thought News International would struggle and still think that is the case.

The environment has changed much since then. While we are all much more used to paying for content, buying apps and games online, the dire state of the economy means we all have less money in our pockets and it is going to be very interesting to see how many of the Sun’s core readers will consider handing over cash to read the nation’s favourite red top tabloid newspaper.