The Times paywall down as paper hits 16-year low

UPDATE, 17:01 GMT: Paywall appears to be back in place on all stories on The Times' homepage. Will keep you posted if anything changes.

UPDATE, 16:41 GMT: Curiously, some articles on The Times' homepage are hidden behind its paywall again - but not all? Does this spell a partial retreat for Murdoch's premium flagship?

Rupert Murdoch's News International has insisted that the online version its UK newspaper, The Times, will remain available on a pay-to-view basis - in spite of its paywall being dropped on the day the circulation of its paper counterpart hit a 16-year low.

Times columnist Caitlin Moran announced the news on Twitter, tweeting: "SCREAM! Apparently the Times paywall has just fallen down! Quick! Read all my articles!"

Marketing news site Brand Republic revealed that August's monthly circulation figures saw The Times' readership fall below 500,000 for the first time since April 1994. Circulation fell to 494,205, down 1.67 per cent on July and June's figure of 503,642.

Ironically, executives at News International had hoped that putting a paywall around the paper's websites would arrest the falling circulation of the print title.

The controversial introduction of the paywall, which restricts access to newspaper content that had previously been free to Internet users, has been criticised for allegedly squeezing traffic to the online version of the newspaper, too.

The sudden disappearance of the paywall this afternoon launched speculation that News International planned to scrap the project, but the company's corporate affairs department quickly assured online media news site The Wall that the situation was due to routine maintenance, and the paywall would be back in evidence "shortly".

As of 16:20 GMT, the newspaper's front page and other content remains free to view. Enjoy it while it lasts.