In a move billed as the biggest development in newspapers since the launch of colour supplements, The Sunday Times has invested £10m in an interactive CD-Rom supplement, writes Dominic Ponsford.
The newspaper, which launched the first colour supplement in 1962, says the investment in this new monthly multimedia giveaway is equivalent to launching a section. The Month comes out for the first time on 31 August and has been nine months in development under the codename Tardis.
The idea came about after research showed 80 per cent of The Sunday Times’s estimated 3.5 million readers have computers and revealed Culture to be the fourth most popular section behind news, sport and business.
The Month will include sound samples from 20 featured albums, film trailers from 10 forthcoming films, computer game demos and previews of exhibitions, concerts and television programmes.
Also crammed into the 700 megabyte capacity of the CD-Rom will be an extended “feature”. The launch issue focuses on David Bowie to coincide with the release of his new album and will include music samples, video footage and an extended interview.
According to Times Newspapers’ marketing department, this section is the closest the company has yet got to Sunday Times TV.
Although CD-Roms are not a new phenomenon, they have largely been forgotten following the explosion of interest in the internet. The advantage of the format is that it can be played on most computers and is quicker to use than the fastest broadband internet connection. The main drawback is that the amount of high-memory content it can take, such as video footage and computer game demos, is limited.
Although The Month will carry advertising (the first issue is sponsored by Renault) it is likely to make much of its revenue from retail partnerships with commercial partners like MVC (for CDs) and Warner Cinemas (for films).
The CD-Rom will contain links to the sales websites of partner companies and Times Newspapers will get a cut of every purchase made. Sunday Times editor John Witherow said: “This is Culture come to life and in 3D . The Month will give our readers untold extra benefits at no extra cost.” The Month has five dedicated editorial staff, and will also have copy contributed from 14 regular Culture section writers.
It is being edited by David Johnson, who joined The Sunday Times in 1996 as deputy editor of Culture and since 1999 has edited the internet and technology section Doors.
He said: “It will switch people who think they are totally loyal to certain publications. In one of the focus groups we had a typical Observer reader, who at the end of the presentation said I’d spend £1.40 on that, but I might not read the paper though.”
According to marketing director Andrew Mullins The Sunday Times has more under-45 ABC1 readers than any other broadsheet. He said: “Entertainment is especially important to these readers, who have been brought up using computers. The Month is the perfect medium for them.”