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Foreigners will have to pay to read The Times online, with tariffs levied on 10 separate channels. The newspaper, part of the Murdoch empire, says it can identify overseas visitors with "90 per cent accuracy,".

"The free ride is over and the days of free content have gone," Paul Hayes, the general manager of Times Newspapers, told the Media Guardian.

The Times charges for some online content already, most notably for access to its famous crossword section. It is also to start charging for access to law reports and for a new World Cup section, the Guardian reports.

So what will happen when the charges are introduced: first the reader numbers will drop, and then the advertising revenues will follow. Overseas readers will tip up at for their UK fix at The BBC and the Guardian Online and, so long as it remains free, the Electronic Telegraph.

Very few newspapers have made a success or a profit out of their online sisters. In the UK, The Guardian and The FT have done well on the readership front, and the latter has done well on revenues (while managing to drop £30m last year on its FT.com subsidiary). As for the Times, we guess that its online readership is a damn sight smaller than... ours, for instance.

If you are interested in the slow death of the free Internet, check out The End of Free, which monitors the headlong rush among publishers to charge for stuff. ®

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