Will Murdoch Kill The One Smart Part Of The WSJ's Paywall?

from the sounds-like-it dept

With Rupert Murdoch's recent talk about removing his sites from Google, some said that if you understood his comments in context, he was really talking more about copying the WSJ's "leaky" paywall strategy -- which lets users see full articles if they visit via Google. Of course, in that very interview, he appeared to not know how that leaky paywall works, claiming that it took people to a landing page with a couple of paragraphs rather than the full story. That's not true. It does that if you're linked from most other sites. But people who come via Google (or, I believe, Digg) get the full story automatically. The idea, from SEO experts, was to actually help Google drive more traffic.

Of course, that was before Murdoch suddenly decided that all this free promotion was "parasiting" his works (despite the fact that many of his own properties do the same thing. However, it looks like News Corp. may actually be considering ending the "leaky" part of its paywall, with the company's COO, Chase Carey, saying that the idea makes no sense:
"I don't think it makes sense... We don't want people going though a backdoor, or other channels..."
And now we learn how little the folks at News Corp. seem to understand the internet and the fundamental way that people want to interact with news these days. It's not just about sitting and receiving the end product. It's about being a part of the process -- and that includes sharing and spreading the news -- for free -- to others. Mark Cuban thinks (incorrectly, in my opinion) that Murdoch understands the value of people passing around links, which is why he says he wants to opt-out of Google (because search traffic isn't as valuable as traffic from Twitter or Facebook). But locking up all that content actually harms that viral-link value. People aren't going to share or spread a link if they know others can't use it. For years, for example, we've used those "backdoors" (i.e., Google News) which Carey bemoans to read stories in the WSJ that we post here. If they stop allowing that, then I won't read the WSJ any more, and the community of readers and commenters here will never hear from the WSJ again. It's difficult to see how that's a better option.

Amusingly, the first time that we ever wrote about this growing concept that people today want to "spread the news" and "share the news" more than they just want to receive the news was about five years ago -- before the WSJ had put up its leaky paywall. The point of that post was to note just how far the WSJ had fallen out of the conversation on news media -- since no one could send around a link to discuss things. Putting those "backdoors" into the paywall, at the very least, brought the WSJ somewhat back into the conversation. Blocking it now would make the Journal irrelevant again. It's difficult to see how that's a smart strategy at all.

Filed Under: backdoors, chase carey, paywalls, rupert murdoch, share the news, spread the news, wsj
Companies: news corp.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. icon
    BobinBaltimore (profile), 12 Nov 2009 @ 3:48pm

    Re: Re: You won't read the WSJ anymore?

    Okay, touche on the smarminess...I probably overstated. But you often use an implicit "smart-dumb" dichotomy which admittedly bugs me.

    On "Are you a subscriber here? No. I have receive no revenue at all from you then. Should I block you from reading Techdirt? That seems pretty dumb to me. There are lots of ways to monetize your presence, even if I'm not getting you to hand me cash directly." Again, the "smart-dumb" thing. But anyway...your business model (an entirely business, actually) is DIFFERENT than WSJ. TechDirt is almost exclusively derivative content and comments on it...and I mean that appreciation and respect. The point of TechDirt is the commentary, so the driver for you to remain open and free is obvious. The WSJ produces original content targeted at a predominantly business audience. And the scale, cost structure and audience are wildly different. Totally different, so I think your strawman doesn't quite fit.

    As for how much communities matter to revenue for the B2B WSJ, you say "But they sure will be tomorrow." Okay...that's your guess, with your a priories. Do communities take only one form and must they be free? Certainly not. Why can't Murdoch explore a different approach to the same challenge? Free is, perhaps, one means to the end of revenue. There are certainly other means and many hybrids yet to be explored.

    "You assume that those "freeloaders" can't be monetized. You're in the news business, aren't you? Do you really need a map on how to monetize "freeloaders"?" Yes, you know my IP reveals that I am in the middle of some of this. I am not assuming that freeloaders can't be monetized. But I can give you 30 examples live today that show that it is extremely difficult to monetize freeloaders to the degree necessary to support a business as a going concern, even partially. I agree that this will change (Hulu, in many ways, gives us all hope). But we have to get from here to there, and business that have dozens, hundreds or tens of thousands of employees need revenue along the way. A leap of faith is generally not regarded as a solid business strategy.

    And I do agree that the loss of prestige and virality (is that a word?) is a problem for any business using a paywall. But it is much more of a problem for pubs that are purely consumer focused. Either way, it is something that needs to be carefully measured and managed. And measuring and managing that is a helluva difficult task.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Essential Reading
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.