Dear Rupert: Before Putting Up A Paywall, It Helps To Have Your Staff Check The HTML

from the just-a-suggestion dept

As you know by now, Rupert Murdoch’s The Times (of London) has kicked off its paywall experiment, with an editor there claiming that news publications that don’t put up a paywall will go out of business. Perhaps. We shall see… but in the meantime, Rupert might want to find people who understand HTML before he turned on the paywall. Reader Craig sent over a link to a Times Online story that tries to get people to go to the new paywalled site “for full coverage, pictures and video from the Middle East.” The only problem? The link is broken. I took a screenshot with my mouse over the link, and you can see that rather than a proper link, the link doubles up on the http at the beginning: http://….

If you can’t see it in the image above, click through for a larger version. Clicking the actual link, of course, gets you a page not found error. Oops. Now, you can say this is a small mistake that anyone can make (hell, we’ve made it here at times), but for a big professional news organization that are trying to drive people to this new pay site, you would think they would have at least had someone double check the links… On top of this, it really highlights the pure annoyance factor that The Times has created for everyone. Not only is it locking up its content behind a paywall, it makes you go hunting for it, and redirects its audience to a totally different place (and, in this case, not even very well).

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Comments on “Dear Rupert: Before Putting Up A Paywall, It Helps To Have Your Staff Check The HTML”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: noscript

Currently on TechDirt, the following sites attempt to run arbitrary, untrusted code on your computer on page load:,,, and

What does this code do? What are the inputs and what are the outputs? Where does the information go.

Now of course, we all know that it’s simply external stuff for twitter and gathering your information to sell to advertisers, but the question is also: what information?

And would you not visit TechDirt if you knew what was being collected? Market inefficiencies get introduced when you hide information from consumers.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: noscript

Mike has said repeatedly that he is ok with Ad blockers being used on TechDirt. Their business model does not rely on the ads on the site.

I just started using an ad blocker here because the IBM (I think it was them) ads kept expanding into the page and were annoying.

This had happened a couple of months earlier and I had sent a message to TechDirt complaining about them (it may have been Dell at the time). I actually got a message back apologizing for the annoying ads noting that they had gotten a number of complaints and as soon as they realized what was happening, they pulled the ads.

I’m not sure I had a point, but they seem (to me at least) to care more about their community and readers and their advertisers.

Sinan Unur (profile) says:

Someone forgot a colon after the http

The outer http:// is added by the browser. Whoever wrote the URL seems to have done it by hand and written http//&hellip which turns the full URL into a relative path starting in the http sub-directory in the current directory.

I cannot understand how and why they would be typing full URLs by hand. Obviously, the part is a constant.

Sinan Unur (profile) says:

Re: Someone forgot a colon after the http

First, the `http//&hellip was my attempt to type http//…. I forgot the ; at the end, illustrating the perils of lack of proof-reading.

More to the point, however, why would a staff-member be checking the links? Before deploying a web site like that, you must first try a test version. One of the tests you must do is to have spider go through the site and make sure all your paylinks work. None of this, entering story URLs or checking their validity is a job for a human.

bob says:

This story

Kinda sounds like some sort of sour grapes or anti Rupert sort of thing to me.
This pay wall thing will sort it’s self out in time, I wont castigate anyone who whats to try and charge for online news.
If people perceive value they might pay.
Of curse I recall when people were bent at having to sign up to read on line content and the birth of bug me not came about from that.
As a classical liberal myself (Libertarian) I say go for it.
But hell even Microsoft has made the http://http// mistake.
This nener nener stuff is a bit on the small side.
I myself have been petty and small, but I try to do better, sometimes, once in a while, on occasion.

Jim Kirk says:

No brainer

It seems pretty simple to me: there’s a ton of news providers with websites that don’t charge for content and then there’s the Times – its writers would have to be pretty damn good to earn money from something that can be freely accessed elsewhere.

Maybe die hard Times readers may cough up the cash but in the long run I think this will only serve to damage the Times’ market share.

Lachlan Hunt (profile) says:

Who cares?

This article is just a pathetic attack against the Times Online and Rupert Murdoch’s paywall plan (although I certainly don’t agree with the paywall). This is obviously just a mistake that slipped through without being noticed, which can and does happen occasionally. But so what? Who cares?

It certainly has nothing to do with their paywall attempt, and so trying to link this trivial mistake with that one is just silly. I suggest you focus on real issues, rather than hunting for issues where there aren’t any.

Hulser (profile) says:

Re: Who cares?

This article is just a pathetic attack against the Times Online and Rupert Murdoch’s paywall plan

While there are certainly weightier topics discussed on TechDirt, the bad link is a fair topic. From the TD post: “On top of this, it really highlights the pure annoyance factor that The Times has created for everyone.” Sure, it’s a mistake anyone can make, but the bad link highlites the unintended consequences of adding artificial layers between your readers and your content. Not to mention how a silly mistake like this negatively affects the perception of the site’s professionalism.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Who cares?

A minor HTML error that… prevents people from being able to access the content they’re trying to access and deters or prevents them from paying the money being requested for said content? That’s actually a big problem, even if the initial error was relatively minor. How many non-internet savvy people (frankly, the ones most likely to consider paying) would recognise the error for what it is, rather than assume the link is broken.

As for “undisguised pleasure at seeing other people fail”, that’s pretty rich coming from someone who tries to do that in every post he makes here. Funny thing is, I don’t think I’ve seen you point out a place where Mike has actually failed, even though you say he does on every article.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Who cares?

mike posts dead links often enough, his posts have typos, and sometimes images or linked documents come up 404. crap happens. mikes post is the sourest of grapes, mocking murdoch again. i am shocked that smart readers here cant tell the difference between a business discussion and massive put down of other peoples business ideas (mostly because they may prove your own faulty)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Who cares?

Picture this: you invent some new kind of electric powered car (yes, it’s another car analogy….sue me) and you promise all sorts of things, including the fact that if the car industry doesn’t adopt this technology, they will go down the drain. Now you are at the unveiling of this new car…everything is going alright and you managed to impress most people…you unveil it and, gasp, the car has no doors!

You, of course, explain that that’s just an engineering mistake: the engineers forgot to assemble the doors in time for the unveiling, but you assure people that the finished product will have doors.

Do you think people will be impressed? They might. But first impressions are hard to shake off. People will remember you and your product for that failure and, unless your product is REALLY good, it will fail.

ComputerAddict (profile) says:

This has nothing to do with putting up a paywall beyond the face that the link was pointing there… It could have happened to any other link on the page.

This has more to do with the craptacular journalistic abilities by “professional” reporters not proof-reading their propaganda before sending it off the masses. I know on my hobby sites where I publish items to a news feed, I preview, and check the links before publishing… But to headline the article about Paywalls, seems like bob was right and this is more of sour grapes-grasping at any little mistake made.

WammerJammer (profile) says:

Bad news

Is this the guy that gives you a paragraph of a story and then hits you up to subscribe before he will give you the rest of the story? Just memorize the names of his newspapers and then ignore them. I use iGoogle and a plug-in to feed me my news and it shows me the name of the news source. I ignore the Wall Street Journal because they use the same methods.
My point is everyone has the news and everyone competes to give the news and the advertising is supposed to pay for it. So in a competitive market like that it is obvious I want my news for free. If the newspapers won’t give it to me then I go to and stream any of the cable or other worldwide news stations. Newspapers have an over-inflated sense of worth. I used to use a newspaper to find an apartment, get a job and I still do use the local newspaper to achieve that. The problem is these big news operations think they should control stuff just because they are so big and they forget that they are a local service.

Craig (profile) says:

It pissed me off...

I’m the one that sent the thing into TD, and it wasn’t a neener-neener-they-can’t-type-HTML kind of note to Mike. Some of you commenting on this are assuming a lot…and as such, you make asses out of yourselves.

First of all, I came to read the initial article from Google News, so I arrived at the first site. I never even connected the site and ol’ Rupert and his stupid farking paywall. There was simply a link that offered more information and detail, which I clicked and got a 404 Not Found error. Okay, it happens, but after I poked around for a minute, I figured out the problem, and off I went. It was at that point that I realized I just did all this only to slam face-first into Rupert’s Wall(TM). My point was that the original link promised me something without even letting me know that I would have to sign up for more. It was then that I realised OH SHIT…Times Online UK…Rupert’s Wall(TM)!

All of you who have degraded this conversation into nothing more than “Oh it’s a typo, get over it” can go and pound sand. The whole point is that a big business just created a problem for a potential customer and that should not happen in this day and age. Had it been someone else who knew nothing about HTML at all, the Times Online wouldn’t even have had a chance to get someone to sign up.

So here’s a big media company that says a paywall is the way to go; that is their prerogative, but if they don’t get customers due to their own fark-ups, and they don’t even realize it, they will come out swinging against some other straw man blaming him for their failure.

If you are going to build a business model and staunchly resist looking at new ways of offering access and scarcities, then you better do the fundamentals correctly.

Neener-neener, my ass. It pissed me off…

whatever says:

you too can do better for your readers

This is one of the few sites where I read many of the comments …

Is it too much to ask that you make a little effort to indent “re:” posts? Seriously. Every comment is left-aligned, providing absolutely no visual cue as to which comment a responder is referring to.

Very bloody annoying.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: you too can do better for your readers

Is it too much to ask that you make a little effort to indent “re:” posts? Seriously. Every comment is left-aligned, providing absolutely no visual cue as to which comment a responder is referring to

It’s an option. At the top of each comment thread there’s an option for “threaded” or “flattened.” You can also set that in your user preferences.

Very bloody annoying.

Sorry that’s not clear. Will look to make it clearer.

Mike Rice (profile) says:


This article is much ado about a minor gaffe at the Times. Murdoch isn’t serious enough to have pulled up the drawbridge at the Wall Street Journal. All you need us the headline from the story and you can place it in google search and find the entire story free online, Murdoch Paywall or no. People might try that at the Times and see if it works there too.

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