News International has unveiled a new model for The Times and The Sunday Times newspapers with the launch of a membership scheme that gives readers access to exclusive events and special offers in return for a £50 annual fee.

The initiative, called Times +, is a strategic shift for News International, the publisher of both papers, which is seeking new ways to charge its readers amid weak advertising markets and declines in print circulation.

The move will be seen as a precursor to the company’s stated intent to charge for online content. Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of News Corp, the papers’ ultimate parent company, said in May that he could start charging in his newspapers, which also includes The Sun, within the year.

”Times+ gives us the opportunity to redefine further our relationship with our readers and to reward their loyalty,” Katie Vanneck-Smith, managing director of News International’s Customer Direct division, said on Monday.

Read More: By Salamander Davoudi, Financial Times

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