Friday 2 July 2010

The Times goes behind the paywall

For those of you interested in reading the Times and Sunday Times on the internet, from tomorrow you're going to have to pay for the privilege. You can pay £1 for a day's access or £2 for a week.

It sounds like the £2 for a week is the better option.

So why has Rupert Murdoch decided to put the Times and Sunday Times behind a paywall?

Traditional print media is struggling, newspapers both local and national are losing readers, sales and revenues are decreasing, journalists are being made redundant. Overall the old print media business model is collapsing.

The internet has revolutionised how we consume the media and news stories, there's a whole generation of people who have no experience of buying newspapers and access information from the internet or smartphones. They don't pay for consuming news.

The great paywall debate is all about how media groups like News International can make a profit in this new media landscape. Why should publishers give away their news content for free on the web? How do actually pay for quality journalism and news production if you have falling profits?

The whole media industry has been waiting for this moment since Rupert Murdoch first announced his plans last year. The entire media industry will be paying close attention to see whether this experiment will really work.

I suppose because I'm a part trained journalist this is a subject of great interest to me. I appreciate that producing good quality journalism requires a significant amount of time and resources.

Good journalism does not come cheap, you need to invest in it. From this point of view I can understand why paywalls are being considered. It probably explains why I've been happy to continue buying newspapers.

I'm buying a product and I accept that if I want something of a certain quality or standard then I need to pay for it.

Will the paywall work?

Although I think quality news content needs to be paid for, I along with many people have my doubts on how successful this paywall experiment will be.

You have to ask yourself why would you pay to subscribe to the Times website? What is it offering that I can't get elsewhere?

When it comes to getting news from the web, I normally go to the Guardian or the BBC, occasionally I would read the Times, but there's no reason for me pay for the Times when I already read the Guardian and the BBC online.

If paywalls are to work then newspapers need to offer some form of niche or unique content; something that's specialised that people feel is worth paying for, that you can't find anywhere else.

An example is the Wall Street Journal, which readers already pay for and is clearly a niche publication specialising in financial news.

A national paper like the Times is too general, offering news stories on topics you can find for free elsewhere on the web. In fact newspapers have never focused on specialist interest subjects.

This is why I think the paywall won't work, but we'll have to see how things develop over the next few months.

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