Wilson Fletcher

Times and Sunday Times

Changing the commercial landscape for news content online

The Times and The Sunday Times transformed the way we think about news online with their groundbreaking strategy. We designed the subscription mechanism and reading experience for the world’s first broadsheet newspaper paywall. 

  • London
14 weeks

+150kDigital subscribers

Since the paywall launched, more than 150,000 people have purchased digital-only subscriptions


The number of Times digital subscriptions increased steadily since 2012

5UK paywalls

Since the Times launched their paywall, two more major newspapers in the UK have followed suit. In the United States, about one third of newspapers have introduced paywalls.

To change the commercial landscape for news content online

When we were approached by News International to help shape the future of The Times and The Sunday Times online, the entire news landscape was based on free access. timesonline.co.uk was one of those free landmarks, hosting tens of millions of viewers per year.

Over the coming weeks and months, we helped to shape the strategy for the world’s first broadsheet newspaper paywall, designed the subscription mechanisms and shaped the design of the two digital newspaper experiences themselves.

A ground-up re-think of the value of news online

Our initial work focused on the core mechanics of the subscription mechanism, defining everything from how the sites should be structured, through levels of access to be provided pre- and post-subscription, to sharing and its role in a subscription news environment. Much of this had not been tackled by a mainstream national newspaper before and we were very aware that the rest of the industry worldwide was watching!

Defining a joined-up experience

The value-mapping process we developed for these sessions directly underpinned the strategy for the site’s experience design, subscription messaging and design of the paywall itself. We created numerous iterations of the concepts to explore and define every aspect of the new experience, from the language used for subscription messaging to the design of the key in-site components.

The feature prioritisation for the design and development process became straightforward once we understood which features and attributes were valued most by the people who we wanted to pay for subscriptions. We worked with a range of NI design, editorial, commercial and technology teams on the design of their respective sites throughout the delivery process.