When is a paywall not a paywall? When it's ajar
is the BBC's media correspondent. Twitter: @BBCTorinD
The news that the Daily Telegraph is likely to charge online readers for some of its content was revealed by FT.com, which itself charges its readers. This meant that many people could not read the full story - an irony not lost on those frantically tweeting the news.
This was a pity because one of the FT's unnamed sources made it clear that not all paywalls are the same and the Telegraph's strategy would be different from Rupert Murdoch's. This person, familiar with the plans, said: "The final decision has not been made, but it will not be an impregnable paywall like the Times. It will be a metered system or, less likely, micropayments."
By keeping its door ajar (not impregnable), the Telegraph would be closer to the FT's model, which offers a sliding scale of access charges. Despite all the current excitement over paywalls, it's not a new idea, having been quietly developed and refined over the past ten years.
"Free (but registered) users" can see up to ten FT.com articles a month. "Standard online subscribers" pay Â£3.49 a week and have unrestricted access to FT.com articles and email services; while for Â£5.49 a week "Premium online subscribers" get the "all you can eat" option, including "the agenda-setting Lex column".
For Â£9.99 a week, subscribers can have all this and the newspaper delivered too!
According to the FT piece, "The Telegraph's change of heart is part of a growing consensus in the newspaper industry that a hybrid model of paid-for and free content (my italics) is needed as publishers confront steady declines in print circulation and the loss of advertising to web rivals."
It said the Telegraph's payment system was unlikely to be introduced before next summer, but a source told it: "It will be in 2011."
Incidentally, I'm not sure how much I should be quoting from the FT article at all. At the bottom of each online piece it says: "Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web."
When is an article not an article? When it's a quote?