Times editor vows paper will have a 'more commercial focus'

James Harding, editor of The Times, has declared there will be "more of a commercial focus" on the paper once the News Corporation empire has split into two companies.

James Harding: editor of The Times
James Harding: editor of The Times

However, he said there were no plans to repeat the Jubilee experiment of pulling its paywall down as a marketing exercise.

Harding was speaking to Media Week during the Marketing Society Conference, and talked about the learnings that can be taken from the organisers and athletes of London 2012.

He said the Olympics had been a success for the Times and The Sunday Times, pointing to the one million extra copies of The Times and The Sunday Times sold during the Olympics, out of a total of two million extra copies across the newspaper market.

He claimed that some of the learnings taken from the Olympics were that marketers should have "confidence in bold projects".

Harding also said the pull of live events was not to be underestimated, adding that, "in an age where everything is available, the difference is being part of it". He added that events that are witnessed live, "take off".

There had been speculation that The Times would pull its website paywall down during periods of the Olympics, as it did with the Jubilee, to lure new users.

However, Harding said there were no plans to repeat the exercise.

He later spoke about the split of News Corporation into two companies, which will ring fence News Corporation's profitable film and media business from its  newspaper business, which houses The Times, The Sunday Times and The Sun.

Harding said "We have been at this for 227 years {publishing], but there is definitely an urge to get on and do this. But there will definitely be more of a commercial focus on what all the papers are doing – The Wall Street Journal, us and the Australian papers"

Questioned about how this would manifest itself, Harding deflected the question, but said: "It will take time. We have to prepare for the split and see what life is like, watched much more closely by the City. We have always been a part of a listed company, so it is not like going out in the brave new world. But there will be closer scrutiny."

Rumours continue to circulate that News Corporation could sell off its newspaper business, which is not as profitable as its faster-growing TV and film business.

The Times and The Sunday Times are loss-making papers for News Corporation, reporting a pre-tax loss of £45m in 2011.

Asked if he would have any reservations about editing under a new owner, should the papers be sold off, Harding responded by praising Rupert Murdoch.

He said: "For the first time, I wrote in the paper what a fantastic proprietor Rupert had been. If you look at the history of The Times, Rupert saved the paper from closure, has invested in new technology, and has been committed to networks of foreign correspondents."

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