Financial Times Looks To Put Its Blogs Behind Paywalls Too

from the missing-the-point dept

In talking about the recent decision by Rupert Murdoch to lock up the entire website of The Times behind a paywall, we noted that one of its editors, Danny Finkelstein, claimed he was still going to post links to stories at The Times on his Twitter account, even though people wouldn’t be able to read them without paying. We pointed out that, in our experience, even linking to registration required sites annoyed the hell out of people, and Finkelstein might want to think twice about engaging in social media by sending people to a paywall. Finkestein responded with a bit of snark:

First, I won’t be tweeting stories that followers can’t read. I will be tweeting stories that followers have to pay for if they wish to read. That is an entirely different thing.

It’s not that different. Most people won’t pay, so the vast majority of people who follow your links are going to get frustrated. It’s not a good consumer experience at all — especially when you’re talking about using Twitter or other social media platforms where sharing and link passing are encouraged.

Apparently, folks over in the UK aren’t quite getting that message. Felix Salmon notes that the Financial Times, who has one of the more annoying paywalls out there is now putting its blogs behind a paywall too. Salmon rightly questions this idea:

The move makes sense in a kind of tyranny-of-consistency way: the site believes that paywalls are the way to go, Money Supply is on the site, therefore Money Supply must be behind the paywall. But beyond that, it’s silly.

For one thing, the best reason for newspapers to put a paywall around their website is to support the circulation of the print product, where readers are much more lucrative in terms of both subscription and advertising revenue. Newspapers with free websites fear that their print readers will desert the newspaper for the online product, and they put up paywalls to make that decision less attractive.

Blogs are a great way for a newspaper to add online value for their print subscribers: they can put nichey content like wonky posts on central banking online, without using up precious newsprint. But the FT doesn?t give online access to its print subscribers: that’s a key difference between the FT paywall and the one being proposed by the NYT. And print subscribers understandably don?t particularly want to pay twice for the same content. So their relationship with the FT will necessarily weaken when they lose access to the blog content.

But that’s the thing about both the Times and the FT’s view of things. It’s never been about “adding online value” at all. It’s been about stamping your feet and declaring “we are valuable, now pay us.” Unfortunately for them, that’s not how the world works.

Salmon goes on to explain how this will totally take certain FT blogs out of the conversation. It’s a key point. What makes blogs work so well is that they usually are not the same as a traditional journalistic reporting platform. They’re not designed to just report the news and move on. The blogging ecosystem tends to be about discussion and conversation, with blogs linking to each other, building off what each other said and continuing the conversation and the debate. But walling it off takes away from all that. That’s why we’ve already seen at least one blogger from The Times bail out from the paper and move his blog elsewhere. I wouldn’t be surprised to see FT bloggers do the same. Putting a paywall on blogs is the equivalent of putting a paywall on a conversation… And, speaking of that, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our conversational paywall t-shirt, which is getting mighty close to selling out:

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Companies: financial times

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Comments on “Financial Times Looks To Put Its Blogs Behind Paywalls Too”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Only, mike is explaining why online paywalls is not a viable model. Particularly when it comes to twitter.

I know if I followed a link on twitter that required payment I’d consider it spam.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that if you don’t have a real counterpoint to add don’t post at all.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

nothing to apologize for. what mike is saying is that anything other than his way is wrong. he is fast to find fault, yet these methods are all new and untried. after all, if we were having this discussion 5 years ago, mike would likely be pushing that new youtube and myspace thing as the ultimate marketing solution. there is great potential that twitter is a transient concept. adjusting your business model to allow for something that may not be around for long (or embraced for long, see myspace) is a pretty short sighted business model.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

‘what mike is saying is that anything other than his way is wrong.’

No, he’s saying that one particular model is wrong.

“he is fast to find fault, yet these methods are all new and untried.”

People like to skim over websites they are linked to, a viewer pays model will push them away. And for the ones who really care about the news, there are plenty of sites willing to offer it for free.

So tell me who is supposed to be buying these subscriptions?

Greg G says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Paywalls are not new and untried. I’ve been clicking links for years only to run into paywalls. My first thought is “well, THIS sucks.” then I think “hmm.. is the story WORTH it for me to pay for a month?” Then I would do a search and find the same story for free, at a site I might have had to register at to comment, but said registration was free as well. So my answer to thought #2 was “Nah, not worth it.”

I don’t use twitter, but if I was sent links that stopped me at a paywall today, the same process would occur.

As for subscribing to the print version.. no thanks. If I really want it, I can probably find a copy at B&N or Borders and read the story.

Ron says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Mike is giving you common sense suggestions to try and save you time going down a dead end road. I see him giving you suggestions as to what to try, not telling you what will work. In the digital world, things change fast, your business model needs to evolve and change with whats going on. If you don’t do that, you will fail. I mostly see him trying to help and the industry just craps on him because they believe he does not know what he is talking about. Thats very short sighted on your part. He is telling you how digital people think and what they will and will not do, he is normally right.

Sneeje (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Here’s the thing. Paywalls may work for some sites and those sites will have to be content with a very lo-growth population of users. But it will never work for all because the economics don’t work out–people aren’t going to pay for access to everything, they won’t even pay for access to most things. They’ll pay for access to one or two things.

So, as long as the content providers are willing to accept that along with the pendulum swinging completely the other way, that many of them will go under (for the good of the market, of course), all will be well.

FreemonSandlewould (profile) says:

Should be a party at their competitors house!

….. all this means is that the old timers go out of business even more rapidly due to increased rate of decline of relevancy.

Cowboy Rupert and company are going to find that computers and information as a combination are hard to lasso.

They may want to consider that we simple folk are not as dumb as the NeoFeudal class(Obama and company) try to portray us as.

Anonymous Coward says:

First, I won’t be tweeting stories that followers can’t read. I will be tweeting stories that followers have to pay for if they wish to read. That is an entirely different thing.

Really? This guy seems kind of disconnected from reality. I guess that’s consistent with NYT’s business strategy though…

Nethos (profile) says:


On the whole I find paywalls annoying, especially when a blog links to a news article locked behind one. The money’s not really an issue to me, but the sheer annoyance of it. Let’s say I’m reading my news in the morning, and an interesting article has a link to another news report about the same topic. Being me, I like to read several different reports in case one of them was excessively biased or had faulty facts. So I click the link, only to be presented with an annoying subscription page. I then have to get out my wallet, put in my credit card info, go through a bunch of account setup crap, and so on, by which time I’ve lost all interest in whatever I was originally reading.

I’m not against these news organizations making money for their work, however I feel that thwy definitely need to look at other options aside from paywalls. They seem more likely to drive readers to other more convenient news outlets than make enough money to be worthwhile.

derek (profile) says:

Hey lots of people see Twitter as an advertising/marketing platform. Lots of people see email that way too. We call them spammers.

If all this guy does is tweet links to paywalled stories, he’ll probably shed followers real quick. On the other hand, he could tweet stuff that makes people WANT to pay for his content.

The problem with most paywalls isn’t the paywall itself, it’s the attitude that built it — “Pay to see our awesome shit” — without any compelling reason to pay instead of going to one of many free alternatives.

Oh, but he has super-extra-special content, with unicorns and rainbows and a cherry on top? Great! All 37 people who agree can pay for it.

The paywall topic has become tiresome. Death is natural, paywalls are just another way of dying.

Business come and go, and change their prices every day. Of course paywalling content that’s widely available for free is simple-minded and self-defeating, but everyone is free to be simple-minded and self-defeating.

Locking big media behind paywalls gives rise to new sites that make money by other means. Some will succeed, some won’t; we call that evolution.

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