News Corp’s News Of The World Goes Paid With A Focused Site, Mobile Payment

With its phone hacking scandal continuing to dominate coverage of News Corp.’s mass-market UK Sunday tabloid, it’s little surprise that the expected implementation of web charging went almost little-noticed when it actually happened on Wednesday…

A new, cleaner News Of The World website went live with prices of £1 ($1.58) per day or £1.99 ($3.15) on a four-week renewal, and a free £2 ($3.17) credit; there is even an option to pay via mobile carrier rather than via debit card.

Reader account authentication is handled by the same Times Plus platform which now powers the websites of its News international stablemates The Times and Sunday Times, which introduced charges this summer. Subscribers must give over their postal address, too, of course.

The NOTW is amongst the world’s most-read newspapers, with an average 2.8 million circulation in August. But its web performance, while not quantified, has likely been far less successful and an audience reduction is now a certainty – just as with the Times switch, News International is now seeking sustainability for its digital properties in the image of its newspapers, not audience for audience’s sake.

News International may be readying to issue data on its Times switch in the next month. NOTW’s daily counterpart, The Sun, is due to implement the model next.

First take…

The site is much cleaner, slimmed down and more pleasurable to browse and consume.

Like the Times, display ads have been drastically reduced, though less so – there’s a site-wide sponsorship by bookmaker William Hill and some rotating banners for the likes of Ibis, eBay (NSDQ: EBAY) and P&O.

There’s a neat Quick Flick feature which loads new stories and accompanying pics on to the current page without having to refresh.

It’s NOTW all over – saucy bikini slideshows, tales of celebrity misdemeanour and features like Captain Cash give it a strong link to its print brand.

The videos which form the basis of so many Sunday news splashes form a central part of the proposition – like soccer players allegedly caught with prostitutes and other sport stars accused of match fixing.

But, as an indicator of how little their “exclusive” tag matters in the digital age, some were already being ripped and uploaded to YouTube before the sire relaunch.

Here’s the sitelet for the Fabulous celeb magazine.