Please welcome our new baby
Times Select will embrace what made The Times great – but it will be unique too
At the end of last year I had the heartbreaking task of writing a farewell column as we announced the closure of The Times newspaper which I had the privilege of editing.
We also announced we would introduce a new daily digital edition called Times Select that would be offered to our print subscribers as well as other readers as a premium product.
That day has come and I’m proud to unveil our new baby as Times Select goes live. We like to think of it as smart news, in one take.
It will be published Monday to Friday at 5am each day, but we may produce further editions depending on how things go.
It has been an eventful birth with a gestation of little more than eight weeks as we took the idea from concept to market.
Forgive me a little self-congratulation, but under the circumstances I think the team involved deserves it and let me also share a little of the behind-the-scenes of what has gone into Times Select’s arrival in the world.First, we had to imagine a style of digital publication never before attempted in South Africa.
The ethos of digital news publishing here, and elsewhere in the world, is very much about servicing an always-on audience with a constant stream of news.
That’s not what we wanted to do with Times Select. Instead we are trying new ways of curating content in a digital edition, separating out some of the big stories driving the news agenda with a bias towards explanatory journalism.
We are also trying to find an alternating pace between news nuggets and longer reads. This thinking has also driven significant changes in our editorial structures, some of which has been challenging and sometimes painful.
The idea is to provide eclectic, surprising and off-agenda coverage from the deep well of reporting sources available to us, alongside powerful journalism and commentary of consequence in a clean, visually strong package.
Times Select is for readers who do not have the time or desire to be constantly plugged in but who still wish to be well informed and challenged.
But an idea is nothing without execution. So, once we had settled on the concept, we had to get it built. We handed over the brief to our product and development team who worked at an eye-watering pace to get this product ready to launch today.
Is it perfect? No, it’s not, but I think it is pretty good and I hope you do too. We did not intend for it to be perfect at launch, only as perfect as we could get it in the time we had.
Instead, we have adopted an iterative approach where we will listen to readers’ feedback and adapt and change as we go forward. This is the power of the digital space: the flexibility it allows for us to respond and change.
I’m sure the first thing former readers of The Times in print will ask is: where is the crossword? It’s not here for the launch but, rest assured, it will be soon. We had to make some hard choices to have Times Select ready today.
You will also notice we have enabled comments on most articles and we hope this will encourage lively (and polite) debate and interaction between readers and with us. We are looking to turn the best of these interactions into a showcase each day. This will allow us to involve our readers in our journalism in ways that is impossible in print.
To get the most out Times Select, be sure to register for our free daily newsletter which will be delivered to your e-mail early each morning. You can activate the subscription in your profile at the top right of this page.
We are also testing out browser alerts that will let you know (even if you are not on our site) that a new edition is ready, so think about enabling this if you are prompted when visiting the site.
For the next two months, all readers can access Times Select for free after registering on the site. If you have an existing user profile for TimesLIVE, SowetanLIVE or BusinessLIVE you can log into Times Select with those details too.
In April we will introduce a paid subscription, although paying subscribers to the Sunday Times print edition will continue to get access without having to pay more.
If you were a former reader of The Times in print, let me personally welcome you back. If you are a new reader, I welcome you too.
We ended last year with tears as we mourned the passing of The Times. It felt like we had lost a friend whose closure would leave a hole in our lives.
Times Select is not meant to be The Times — it is meant to be what was great about The Times and it is also something unique.
But, above all, we hope Times Select will be your new friend with which you start each day.