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.