Three mobile punters get behind Times paywall

Rupert Murdoch's online newspapers The Times and The Sunday Times have joined up with mobile provider Three to offer the network's mobile broadband customers three months free access to their paywalled sites.

News of the deal was broken by a press release from the mobile provider.

According to Three's blurb, it's the first time the newspapers have entered into a deal of this type, and may be a sign that the beleaguered titles - whose daily print edition suffered the biggest year-on-year fall among British broadsheets, according to recently released figures - is scrambling to make up its declining readership.

Since The Times and its sister paper, The Sunday Times, hid themselves behind a paywall in July, the combined subscriber base of the two sites has dropped to around 26,000 readers a month. Prior to the change, the pair attracted around 20 million unique visitors a month.

Analysts have suggested the papers' slimmed-down readership may be a model for future online media - but the deal with Three suggests their owner, News International, is looking to prop up its figures with a few extra recruits.

"As more people consume news online, a partnership with The Times is a perfect offer for our mobile broadband customers," Three's 'Head of Customer Propositions Mobile Broadband', Alys Mathew, said in the release.

According to the press release, after their first three months, pay-as-you-go customers on Three who top up every 30 days will continue to get free access to both sites for another month.

The deal will be available to new customers until 31st March 2011.