Times Online Says Competitors Will Go Out Of Business Without A Paywall

from the a-lonely-existence-indeed dept

As Rupert Murdoch and News Corp. get ready to begin their latest paywall experiments with the Times of London and the Sunday Times, the company has revealed a few more details, and it looks like this particular paywall will be fairly complete. Unlike the WSJ, this won’t be a “leaky” paywall. The content will be opted out of Google, and there will be no way to get to it, unless you subscribe at the rather hefty price of £1 per day. What’s amazing is that the folks behind this experiment still think it’s going to be a huge success — even as nearly all of the papers’ competitors are remaining steadfastly free.

In looking over the details, it seems pretty clear that it was set up by people with a very old school “print” mindset, even though they’re trying to add some digital elements to it. Basically, they set it up to look just like a print newspaper. It’s very much about “here’s the news, now take it.” There’s little effort to allow the community to actually be a part of things. They do allow comments, but on a limited basis, and then there will be “video and slide shows.” This is all about delivering information. It’s not about engaging or discussing things. It’s entirely “we’re the experts, take the news as we see it.” I’m sure there are some people who still want that kind of thing, but much of the world seems to be moving towards a much more participatory, community-based model.

Amusingly, the “comment editor” for the Times insists that he’ll still Twitter links to stories — it’s just that no one will be able to read them. That seems pretty obnoxious. I know that even when I point to stories here on Techdirt that have a registration or paywall (even if there are easy ways around them) the readers complain. Pointing people to stories they can’t read isn’t particularly nice. On top of that, the comment editor, Danny Finkelstein, seems to have a bit of hubris about this whole paywall thing. He claims that his competitors, who will offer similar news stories for free “won’t go viral, they will go out of business.” I guess we’ll find out.

Finkelstein, by the way, also seems a bit confused about the business of newspapers:

“We are unashamed about this,” said Mr Finkelstein. “We are trying to make people pay for the journalism…. I want my employer to be paid for the intellectual property they are paying me for.”

Except, in almost every case, that’s never been the case. For pretty much all of the modern history of newspapers, the newspapers were not paid for their “intellectual property.” Subscriber fees paid for less than printing and delivery costs. The money was made from selling ads, and the ads were sold because (at the time) the newspapers were the only ones who could bring together a community of local eyeballs that advertisers wanted to buy. But, by blocking that off (in the face of free competition) and limiting how useful the content is (by making it a lot less shareable or worth discussing), basically takes away that value, gives fewer reasons for people to gather, and fewer reasons for advertisers to pay. Perhaps I’m missing something about this plan, but it seems designed to destroy all the reasons why a news publication makes money in the first place, on the confused and wrong belief that newspapers have supported themselves via “journalism” at any time in the past. The journalism brought in the people, and the people brought in the ads. Skipping over those details seems like a pretty big risk.

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Comments on “Times Online Says Competitors Will Go Out Of Business Without A Paywall”

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86 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Mike, you are so wrong. When this paywall goes up and makes millions of dollars and saves this newspaper, will you finally admit you know nothing about this business?

This newspaper and business expert has made an unchallengably genius decision. He’s a professional who gets paid millions to decide things like this based on insider information you simply don’t have.

Seriously, if you knew what you were talking about, wouldn’t you make a living giving content away for free?

JEDIDIAH says:

Re: The Times is no Journal.

If this paper was so great, it would not need the paywall to begin with. People would be willing to spend money on real subscriptions and on ocassion even import these papers into other markets (like the WSJ).

Murdoch’s problem is not free, it’s consumers having easy access to competitors. It’s easier to see what sort of dreck he’s peddling.

RD says:

Re: your TAM is showing

“Mike, you are so wrong. When this paywall goes up and makes millions of dollars and saves this newspaper, will you finally admit you know nothing about this business?

This newspaper and business expert has made an unchallengably genius decision. He’s a professional who gets paid millions to decide things like this based on insider information you simply don’t have.

Seriously, if you knew what you were talking about, wouldn’t you make a living giving content away for free?”

bwahahahahahahahahahhahaha

(deep breath)

aaaaaaahahahahahahahahaha!!!

Never ceases to amaze the depths the Big Media corporate shills will stoop to to try to convince someone, ANYONE, that they are the end-all, be-all of how to monetize content. Just wow. I applaud you. That is the biggest load of drivel I have ever read. I dont see a sarcmarc or other indicator of sarcasm, so I assume you actually believe that big, steaming pile of shit you just typed.

Are you unaware of other such attempts in recent years? The ones that FAILED UTTERLY? Like that one that put up a paywall and got THIRTY FIVE subscribers? No? You might want to brush up then.

This WILL fail, its not even a question except to those paid to spout the nonsense you are spouting. There is no way in hell they will EVER get within a SNIFF of the kind of subscribers they need to make this work. Not unless they have content that no one else has, and that a lot of people want. But if its just “the news” then this is FAIL of the highest order. Mark these words now: It will take less than 1 year for them to fold this up and declare it a failure. I will be back in 1 year to hear your mea culpa.

Anonymous Coward says:

actually, it appears they are doing a few things right here, similar to the WSJ model. most importantly, they are trying to stake themselves far above the circle jerking, self-copying web media that is often short on facts and fast on replication. you can get sort of the story online, or you can get the whole story with the Times.

the individual content pages may be opted out of google, but the main page will likely be visible, crammed with keywords, and generally getting plenty of action. yes, their traffic may drop dramatically, but if what they are losing is freeloaders, have they really lost anything except expense?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“short on facts”

Yeah, that pretty much describes the average Murdoch-owned rag and it’ll be nice to have one of his propaganda outlets off the publicly-viewed web. It’ll be nice for more reputable competitors such as the BBC and The Independent the take some of that valuable traffic and restore some balance to the online mainstream media. Now, if only the Daily Fail could take the same boneheaded move…

Oh, that’s not what you meant?

SomeGuy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

you can get sort of the story online, or you can get the whole story with the Times.

Even now, with the Times available for free, I’m not convinced that’s true. They seem to be as reliable (no more and no less) than any other news publication out there. Unless their plan is to dramatically step up their game after the wall goes up, they’re just being narcissistic. And if that IS their plan, no one will notice because it’ll be hidden from them. I can’t think of any worthwhile site that charges even $1 a day; what makes these guys so great?

but if what they are losing is freeloaders, have they really lost anything except expense?

Eyeballs. As Mike noted above, the whole business of newspapers has been selling ads, and no one wants to buy ads on a page that has little readership. Sure, freeloaders might not give you money directly themselves, but the extra attention makes your site more attractive to people who WILL pay you.

The game changes if online advertising really is dying, but it seems to be working well for Google.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Running bet ....

Okay I am creating a betting pool. In 5 subscription increments. The winners gets an “Techdirt Crystal Ball” from Techdirt’s CwF + RtB on me.

here are the numbers
1-5
6-10
11-15
16-20
.
.
.
36-40 – I am choosing this range (I like the number 38 for a reason)
.
.
.
100,001-100,005

Take your guesses, its on me and its a free “Techdirt Crystal Ball” from Techdirt’s CwF + RtB.

And good luck

David

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Running bet .... The RULES

“Take your guesses, its on me and its a free “Techdirt Crystal Ball” from Techdirt’s CwF + RtB.” If you guess the correct 5 subscription range.

The rules are simple
1) you can guess once a day

2) AC’s may apply but mike and his crew will have to determine who you are.

3) all guessing to be done here in this thread

4) I the creator of this Running bet may only guess once 36-40 is my range

5) The running bet continues from the day the paywall goes up to the day it comes down, the newspaper folds, the newspaper goes chapter 11 or equiv, the newspaper is sold, or two years pass.

6) rule number 5 may be extended to include acts of god, financial, or any other events that cause the paper to close its doors. Rule number 5 may only be changed pre-failure event, not after news has broken about the failure of the “Times Paywall experiment”. Simply put the rules cant be changed after the fact only before. I will think of other failure scenarios over the next couple days and add them to number 5.

7) You must post your bets off the main thread Re: Running bet …. to prevent the thread from becoming one character per line in threaded mode.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Running bet .... The RULES

Okay you are in the running with the range of 999,996-100,000

In all actuallity I think what they are going to do is a free trial that requires a credit card with a sleazy “you need to cancel within 30 days” clauses in the fine print. Then do repeat billing. With the legendary savior of the news and print industry, the iPad app, I am not sure how this repeat billing would work.

The range I choose 36-40 is low balling it.

Richard Corsale (profile) says:

Re: Running bet ....

i’d say > 105k .. can I do that? I mean, it’s the NY Time’s. EVERYONE in Manhattan reads it daily and think about how many of them are a. well off and mobile ready. and b. have subscriptions already, they just upgrade with an additional fee and it’s done.

I don’t know what a Crystal Ball is.. but I think your waaaaaaay off base on this one :). I know the others haven’t done so well, but the Times is different for a number of reasons. If you’ve ever lived in NY you’d understand. It’s more than news, it’s a part of the culture… So yeah I’ll say closer to one million within a year.

On the other hand, if others adopt it, they will find out the hard truth, that yeah the Times IS different

Joe says:

Re: Re: Running bet ....

Er No.

It’s not the NY Times. It’s the London Times. Once it was a great newspaper but them Rupert Murdoch bought it.

He decided to break the printers union and that led to a massive strike. The reporters who were worth anything refused to cross the picket line and left to start “The Independent”.

It’s never been the same since.

charlie potatoes (profile) says:

Getting what I pay for ...

Ok, so after I give Murdock my dollar, what do I use to line the bottom of my bird cage? It’s the only real value I see in newspapers of today. The city of Dallas has one newspaper… one … haha. It’s as big a neocon bubba as are the majority of my fellow Texans. The Republicans scream “liberal press” when anyone dares contradict them. Yet every newspaper in Texas regularly endorses the Republican slate. Texas used to be Mississippi with better roads. Now our only good roads are tollways, built by Republicans by their brothers in law. Newspapers can stick it up their ***, I’ll never give them a nickel.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That’s great for you. I personally will pay for the occasional physical copy when I’m in the UK (especially if they have a decent free DVD or discounted book with the paper – regional restrictions mean they’re not available on the stupidly expensive Spanish-printed copies, so I never buy them here), and give them the occasional click when linked from other sources. I will never pay them a subscription because while the free content could be valuable, I don’t value it enough to get out my credit card.

The point is, you’re probably in a minority, and the majority most likely think more like I do. The argument is that the paywall will lower their readership considerably, and it seems like a counter-productive move to block large numbers of people rather than build a workable business model to monetise their visits. It will be interesting to see how the brand survives after removing all casual visits, but the prediction is pessimistic.

Richard (profile) says:

Murdoch was successful in the past but..

Most successful businessmen are one trick ponies. They had one idea which worked (maybe in several different contexts) at a certain time – but times change and the idea that used to work won’t any more.

Rupert Murdoch’s business ideas have now passed their sell by date. He is now a dinosaur just like the old print unions that he broke 25 years ago. He used technology to break then – his smarter/newer competitors will use technology to break his business.

Analmouse coward says:

Good ol' Rupert. gotta love this guy.

I reckon less than 1000 subscribers in the first six months. (if its a major success then I will (cry a little and) consent to give up all predictive comments)

Even if it fails, Rupert will still blame everyone else and run to the new coalition asking for them to ban the bbc reporting the news, google from being a search engine (or pay exorbitant rates for the privilege), isp’s for letting people use the internet etc etc. (basically a long list of competitors or those he deems to be stealing from him).

All because they blatantly steal money from the private sector, as demonstrated by his big paywall experiment.

W*-K£$

plus £1 a day, £30 a month, wtf pricing is this? that’s the same as the print copy (without being able to use it as a firelighter or spillage moper upper)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Times

Call me Al says:

No more Times for me

I’m a pretty heavy consumer of news websites in the UK. I’ve got feeds for The Telegraph, The Times, The Guardian, The BBC and I read a lot on all of them and I know which bits I like, which I don’t and I flick through them depending on what I am interested in at that moment. Of the three actual papers I probably read The Times the least because a lot of what is written there is drivil.

It seems that Rupert thinks I should be paying roughly £1,460 a year for my newspaper consumption (£1 a day! seriously wtf!), an amount I find comfortable as I hope I’m getting a more balanced view of events. As it turns out I pay £0 and will continue to do so.

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

From my limited investigation on subscription prices for The Times and The Sunday Times, it seems that they are asking about £6 a week.
With the £1 a day for the online edition, they’re asking MORE money than for the paper subscription.
It makes absolutely no (business) sense to me, why anyone would do that.

But I might be wrong on the subscription price, they don’t really list it anywhere on their website.

RD says:

Re: your TAMhole is showing

“Given your self-entitled man-chil”d demographic how could you possibly be surprised about this?

Oh good, so your edict of “debate the ideas not the person” is now void, right? So we can slam you as well all we want and not get any complaint that we arent “debating the issues”, right? RIGHT?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: your TAMhole is showing

I’m not TAM and am very much in favor of “debating the person” should that person be a self-interested, self-entitled, idiot who claims otherwise.

Supposing you’re able to rationally defend man-babies throwing diaper-soaked tantrums over having to register/pay for certain content, you may then proceed to debate my person with as much vile and ridicule as you can muster.

Good luck! (You’ll need it)

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: your TAMhole is showing

“you’re able to rationally defend man-babies throwing diaper-soaked tantrums over having to register/pay for certain content”

No tantrums at all just annoyance.

If I see a login screen I go elsewhere. The majority of the people who hit the subscription screen know whats next, fill in this intrusive information, now fill in the next page of info, now on the next page provide your credit card for your “free” trial good for 30 days. You can cancel your subscription at anytime, provided you can find the cancellation page.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Given your self-entitled man-child demographic how could you possibly be surprised about this?

You must be confusing us with a different site, perhaps like the entertainment industry sites that assume they’re entitled to keep their business model the same forever, and the gov’t should step in any time any bit of technological progress threatens them.

That’s the only entitlement mentality I see around here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

You must be confusing us with a different site, perhaps like the entertainment industry sites that assume they’re entitled to keep their business model the same forever

Of course no one in ANY industry is entitled to the same business model forever. What they ARE entitled to is defense from ILLEGAL and unfair competition (you do recognize the legal concept of “unfair competition” don’t you?). Technological innovation has not superseded the IP industries in the same way that cars superseded buggies (your favorite shitty analogy). Nothing superior has replaced movies, music, books, or videogames. If some newer form of entertainment does comes along (that is the transcendent equivalent of the automobile) the demise of the incumbent industries, though plainly disruptive for current participants and melancholic for sentimental old timers, will be untenable, just as the demise of vaudeville and silent film (for instance) was untenable. Unfortunately there is no “automobile” equivalent on the horizon for any of the incumbent creative industries, there is only a new form of distribution, easily utilized for ILLEGAL purposes so that the “buggie whips” (still very much in demand) can now be easily appropriated without recompense to their makers. I’m not aware of any good analogical equivalents to this — the ones commonly espoused by Silicon Valley teat suckers and freeloaders the world over (ice, whale blubber, buggie whips etc) are only superficially relevant as historical examples of disruptive technologies but delve any deeper and it becomes obvious how different they are to the current situation as copyrighted works are neither naturally-occurring resources nor superseded by some brand new competitor.

and the gov’t should step in any time any bit of technological progress threatens them.

No, but the government SHOULD step in to defend our constitutional rights when ILLEGAL activity (technological or otherwise) threatens them.

tom says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You seem to be getting very excited about very little.
Sure sales of music on cd has dropped 12% in a year – but people are still buying music – a lot. And digital music ( which now counts for 50% of music sales has gone up 50% in the last year). whihc means ( and my maths is bad) that music sales has dropped only 9% or 6% not sure which. But there is a recession on, phones mp3 players and ipads dont have cd players so there is bound to be a drop. The point is that pirating is not really a problem. In fact it probably is a benefit. Free, news or whatever is something to work with not fight against. Don’t be so angry about ti all. there’s lots if not more money to be made (if money is your thing).

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Of course no one in ANY industry is entitled to the same business model forever.

And yet, you’re hear making exactly that claim. Odd then, that you seem to disagree with yourself.

What they ARE entitled to is defense from ILLEGAL and unfair competition (you do recognize the legal concept of “unfair competition” don’t you?).

The problem is that “unfair competition” is often what the legacy industry defines upstart competition to be. You do know that when automobiles were introduced, many localities passed laws effectively outlawing them, right?

Technological innovation has not superseded the IP industries in the same way that cars superseded buggies (your favorite shitty analogy). Nothing superior has replaced movies, music, books, or videogames.

Heh. Well, that’s your opinion. You do realize that when cars first came along, they were dirty, smelly, broke down more often and were significantly less reliable than horse & buggies.

I would suggest you look at the history of disruptive innovation, and how markets move from one technology to another. Unlike you’re claim they don’t happily sit around and wait until they decide something is “better” and then make the shift. The shift happens much earlier, when things are messy. The companies that resist — such as your employers — tend to get flattened.

If some newer form of entertainment does comes along (that is the transcendent equivalent of the automobile) the demise of the incumbent industries, though plainly disruptive for current participants and melancholic for sentimental old timers, will be untenable, just as the demise of vaudeville and silent film (for instance) was untenable. Unfortunately there is no “automobile” equivalent on the horizon for any of the incumbent creative industries, there is only a new form of distribution, easily utilized for ILLEGAL purposes so that the “buggie whips” (still very much in demand) can now be easily appropriated without recompense to their makers.

That’s your position as someone who sucks from the teat of the old industry. Clearly a very large number of individuals have moved to a competing distribution system than the one that pays for your mortgage. You can whine and complain all you want, but you won’t stop progress.

I’m not aware of any good analogical equivalents to this — the ones commonly espoused by Silicon Valley teat suckers and freeloaders the world over (ice, whale blubber, buggie whips etc) are only superficially relevant as historical examples of disruptive technologies but delve any deeper and it becomes obvious how different they are to the current situation as copyrighted works are neither naturally-occurring resources nor superseded by some brand new competitor.

Your inability to recognize what’s happening in the market you’re in speaks more to your own blinders.

Good luck to you, sir. You’re going to need it.

No, but the government SHOULD step in to defend our constitutional rights when ILLEGAL activity (technological or otherwise) threatens them.

Yes, just like how cars were declared illegal if they didn’t have someone walking in front of them waving two red flags.

Watch out, buddy. You’re about to get run over. Time to update your world view.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“What they ARE entitled to is defense from ILLEGAL and unfair competition (you do recognize the legal concept of “unfair competition” don’t you?).”

So you want legal and fair competition … Big Ole Grin … you have come to the right place.

Would you like to know how to take on the entertainment industry? Its simple, open standards, a fair open copyright system, community, accounting, fair use, social networking, and here is a big one “defined rules”.

Defined rules are, rules that dont require negotiation, that dont require a great monetary outlay, that the monetary outlay is predefined for each circumstance, that people understand at a glance, that does not change based on the groups you are dealing with, that is a central source, that when agreed to dont change and cant come back to haunt you, where individual items are ranked on the chances of causing legal head aches.

Now lets have some fun and explore the future based on defined rules.

aaa says:

Paywall's won't work

Unless they’re offering content that’s unique and can’t be found elsewhere for free, this model won’t work. I’m guessing that a large percentage of people browse news sites from work. Are these people going to pay $1/day just to read news from a particular Website? I doubt it.

Even those who read news online from home will probably find this price outrageous, especially when the same news can be read for free on thousands of other Websites. And if most of the big news sites decide to follow suit and charge, most people will turn to smaller sites or well known blogs that will remain free.

I really doubt this will work.

Boraxo (profile) says:

You're missing the point

The strategy here is that online free viewing steals from print sales (I’m not saying that’s true, I’m saying that’s what Murdoch thinks is true).

So you put the online behind a paywall. You generate a few dollars, but mostly you boost print sales, instead of online cannibalizing print.

What Murdoch should be doing is maximizing online revenue: yield management strategies to price ad sales like airline seats, finding ways to increase premium ad inventory and target the ad sales better, improving the demographics of the eyeballs he’s selling.

But he’s old school: eyeballs on print ads are worth more, maximize those. Its like Detroit scrambling to make SUVs more poopular as the price of gas rises.

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