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The Times paywall: An end to sharing

Rory Cellan-Jones | 23:05 UK time, Monday, 24 May 2010

A great experiment is about to get under way, and it will tell us much about the future of journalism and the willingness of readers to pay for it. In Wapping last night, News International showed off the new websites for The Times and Sunday Times which have opened to the public this morning. Four weeks from now, a paywall will go up in front of the sites and, by News international's own calculation, more than 90% of their audience will melt away.

Screengrab of Times websiteBoth new sites look engaging and attractive. They are very different - after years of operating online under the same banner, each newspaper now wants to reassert its identity. The Times has a clean, simple look, much like the paper itself, with the accent on news, complemented by interactive graphics and video.

The Sunday Times looks far more like a magazine, emphasising the kind of material that has a shelf life beyond the day of publication. Among the special online offerings are a weekly satirical look at the news by the video artist Alison Jackson, and a culture planner, which you can use to book theatre or cinema tickets direct from the site, or even to set your Sky Plus recorder.

'If you want a quick hit of in-depth news you go to the Times," a Sunday Times executive explained,"if on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday you want to tour a little, you come and snack on what the Sunday Times has to offer."

If, that is, you are willing to pay £1 for a day or £2 for a week's access. This is more than just an experiment in whether people will pay for news, it's a strike against the prevailing philosophy of online journalism, which says that the most important thing is to make your material shareable to the widest possible audience. Look at the bottom of most online news articles these days and you will see a share button encouraging you to pass on what you've just read to friends, via e-mail or a social network.

Go to a site like Twitter and you will see an orgy of self-promotion from journalists tweeting links to their latest stories or blog posts. Over the weekend, the social network was alive with discussion of a piece about Lady Gaga by the Times' extremely entertaining feature writer Caitlin Moran. During the election, the Times' chief leader writer and political columnist Daniel Finkelstein reached a far wider audience via social networks and Google searches than actually paid to read him in the paper.

Now all that will stop. Google searches will no longer turn up Times stories, and links posted on social networks will only take you to the papers' sign-in page. News International has opted for the most extreme form of paywall - others let search engines crawl their sites, or offer non-paying visitors a few free articles to entice them in. The paper says there will be advantages to readers in thinning out the crowds. Online chats with the football or cricket writers, for instance, will be more intimate, and as comments will now be by named readers, there will be an end to the tedious anonymous ranting that plagues many news sites.

I asked Danny Finkelstein whether it bothered him that from now on none of his journalism would "go viral", with the risk that he'd be left invisible on the sidelines as the online debate raged through news sites without paywalls. "No," he insisted,"I want my employer to be paid for my intellectual property."

Executives from The Times and Sunday Times weighed in with the perfectly sound argument that it was unsustainable for the two papers to go on doing what they are doing now - quality journalism is an expensive business and they made a loss of £87m last year.

It will take a lot of subscriptions to fill that hole, but the company is convinced that advertisers will find the smaller audience of committed readers more attractive than the 21 million promiscuous passers-by who flit through the free Times Online site each month at present.

While there's been plenty of sniping from the sidelines by News International's rivals, I suspect they are all glad that someone is at least testing the waters. If the two papers do attract enough paying customers to start eating into the company's losses, that will give heart to the whole newspaper industry. But for Times journalists who are getting used to the idea that they can build their own brands by sharing their wares far and wide online, these are going to be a difficult, and perhaps lonely, few months.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Why would anyone PAY to get Murdoch's crap? The BBC may be flawed in lots of ways, but the news it provides is top notch and free.

  • Comment number 2.

    "Uncle" Steve Hewllet just said on Today that the Guardian is taking £40m in advertising from guardian.co.uk

    The times, assuming it gets £2 a week per paying user, will need 384,615 subscribers to match this.

    However, the paper will no longer have an online shop window, so the costs of acquisition of new subscribers will raise the number of required subscribers.

  • Comment number 3.

    1. At 07:55am on 25 May 2010, MarkG wrote:
    Why would anyone PAY to get Murdoch's crap? The BBC may be flawed in lots of ways, but the news it provides is top notch and free.

    My reply:
    While I agree with you regarding your low opinion of Murdoch's press-machine (for me it's more due to his ruthless attempts at creating a media monopoly - whether it's the insensate "exposés" of the BBC or denial of the whole Sky vs Virgin saga), please don't fall into the same trap many do when talking about the BBCs news services. They are not free. You pay with your TV license. Which is why BBC online displays adverts for oversea's IPs.

  • Comment number 4.

    This is going to be really interesting. I'm pretty certain this won't work, and it's not a well thought through approach at all. It seems to be the most glaringly obvious means to create a revenue stream, but with the sacrifice of not being able to share any content whatsoever. The web has evolved into a news sharing community, and it looks as if The Times don't wish to take part. The bet has been hedged against loyalty, which is a high egotistical risk. News is news, and people will seek it from the best sources. I give it 2 months before they open up again and rethink their strategy.

  • Comment number 5.

    Even to register for the "exclusive preview" I'm required to supply my date of birth (rather than just age). I consider this sensitive personal information, why would I provide this? Sorry but no way!

  • Comment number 6.

    I gave up paying for print media a long time ago, because the quality wasn't worth it. Based on what I've seen on-line, I'm unlikely to be paying for what I consider to be that same quality in electronic format.

    There is the side issue that I wouldn't willingly give my money to Murdoch anyway, but that's secondary to the "is it worth the asking price?" question.

  • Comment number 7.

    Putting aside my own objections to Murcdoch's media empire, I'm not sure how successful this venture can be.

    The model that NewsCorp are using assumes a drop off of around 90% of users. however, there will be users who do want the contetn, but these are mostly journalists and other freelancers who need the content*. These are niche markets. what NewsCorp need is penetration inot mobile browsing like the iPhone and iPad. And there are lots of other sources of free news around, which many will migrate to in preference to those sources.

    For people used to buying a daily newspaper (like the Guardian, which costs the same as daily access to the new Times sites), a pound a day, or the weekly discoutnted rate suddenly doesn't seem such a bad deal. I'm just not sure that enough 'traditional' readers will migrate to this and the online population won't pay either. It seems like the model is already squeezed between two extremes. It will struggle to work, and personally I kind of hope it doesn't


    * I heard Andrew Collins tlaking about this very thing last week

  • Comment number 8.

    "...it was unsustainable for the two papers to go on doing what they are doing now - quality journalism is an expensive business and they made a loss of £87m last year."
    "No," he insisted,"I want my employer to be paid for my intellectual property."
    There are two things wrong with these statements:
    1. The assumption that the consumer pays for the news. They don't. ADVERTISING pays for the news. It always has, with the consumer only paying a minimal, competitive price for the physical paper/packaging. What we have here is a drop in advertising revenue that News International is trying to recoup from their customers instead. But people aren't stupid, they know papers make their money from ads and are only prepared to pay £1 because it's a physical item in shops. Online they expect it to be free, because every other website is, because they are paid for by ads.
    2. I'm sorry Mr Finkelstein, no-one is going to pay for your version of the news if they can get the same news elsewhere for free. News is news is news whoever reports it. Facts aren't intellectual property and just because you have an opinion on a news topic doesn't mean you/your employer has a right to be paid for it. As I said above, it's the advertising that pays the bills, NOT the news.
    But even if you take these comments at face value, even if The Times were stuffed with quality journalism from brilliant journalistic minds, unique articles and opinion that no-one else has and exclusive interviews and investigations that put it far and away above all the other papers combined, the LAST thing you want to do is then go and hide it all! In the online culture, exposure is everything - if people don't know what you've got, it doesn't exist.

  • Comment number 9.

    I suspect that one motivation is to get people to buy the paper version - at the margin, one may use the net for free even if it involves quite a bit of clicking around, but if it costs the same as the paper you'll get the paper. After all, how many of us go to a newspaper site for the story - we'll have already seen it here! It's much more likely that they make their sales from the commentators etc.

  • Comment number 10.

    Just as the music industry has tried to do, this is a case of applying old-media pricing to the internet. It hasn't worked particularly well for music and film, and I think newspapers will fare even worse. As Rory points out, it'll mean the end of the ability to share content. It'll also mean people from around the world will no longer check out The Times to see its take on global news stories.

    I wouldn't necessarily object to paying for things in itself. It's the loss of all the advantages that the online world has over the old media that makes me convinced this is not the way to go about it.

  • Comment number 11.

    I find it slightly concerning that registration requires you to be over 18. I would have thought that the Times was exactly the sort of thing that bright youngsters should be encouraged to read.

  • Comment number 12.

    I really really hope this is doomed to be the failure it deserves to be. The whole concept of closed content is totally anathema to the spirit of the web. The whole structure is based on the idea of sharing and interlinking.

    I beg anyone reading this who is thinking of paying...DON'T. Put grasping Murdoch in his place.

  • Comment number 13.

    Why individual paywalls will not succeed

    Johnston Press stopped it’s paywall experiment early and New International has launched its system. Such proprietary offerings are highly unlikely to work in the real world.
    Who is going to sign up to a local publisher or a national newspaper to read a news story presented to them from a search engine at a cost of at least £1 for a ‘first read’? My guess is very few.
    How many are going to get out their credit cards to subscribe to national or local papers? They may do it once or twice as an experiment, but with other sites offering free new, it’s unlikely they will keep their subscriptions going for more an a month or two at best. Based on News International’s pricing, signing up to just one of its titles will be around £8 per month or over £200 a year. So who’s going to create accounts for The Times, The Financial Time, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Mirror, The Guardian and The Independent at a total cost of over £1600? (And that’s just in the UK) - Get real!
    What is required is a fair pricing policy for those interested in news sites in general and the only logical way to do this to for publishers to come together to produce a national, or global, pay-per-click paywall system.
    Anyone providing news content could become a member and can set their own price level for the pages they provide. Each site would have a common ‘Paywall Menu’ which would provide login, price per page and balance details to the user at all times. Prices could be set by the owner on either a site wide bases or for individual pages, including some being left free to view.
    The user could set up their account so they are warned of pages that cost or are over a specific price or when their account balance drops below a defined level.
    Over time the publishers could analyse the data and work out the most profitable price to charge per page. This could be anything from a fraction of a penny upwards. It would be up to them to optimise their revenues by determining what people were prepared to pay. Indeed, prices for stories could reduce over time as they become less relevant.
    Having a single ‘News Account Card’ would allow users to freely navigate from one news publisher to another knowing they are paying for only what they are consuming while using a single account to pay for all such content.
    There are already successful sites which work in a similar ‘pay-as-you-go’ fashion such as Skype with its ‘Skype Out’ account. Every time you make a call your account is debited a few pence. You can do this from any computer running Skype from a single account. The same could easily be applied to newspaper websites or any other site which wants to charge for information such as motoring sites or review sites such as Which?
    This system is as close as ‘popping into your local newsagent’ as it can get and could give the news industry a fair price for the material it produces without daft, individual, subscription systems that are very unlikely to work in the long term.

  • Comment number 14.

    I give them 6-8 weeks before they have to revert to free.

  • Comment number 15.

    Paying for online content is absolutely the future. Businesses cannot survive on fresh air, and services that are paid for in the real world should be paid for online in the long run, albeit cheaper and easier to access. Many other publications charge for online content already, such as the FT, so it's not quite the leap in the dark that is implied.

    However, looking at a 4 Ps analysis of this particular offering, it is utterly doomed:

    1) Product. The product appears relatively attractive. However, little or none of the content is unique, there is also a print version offering many benefits over the online edition, and few people have devices to make the most of the online content. Reading on a desktop, or constant scrolling on a mobile, are not comfortable options. Verdict: C
    2) Promotion. One month's free access is hardly enough to drag in enough punters, especially if no content is available to non-subscribers after that. How will they know what they're missing? Verdict: D-
    3) Price. £1?! Are they serious? This is the same price as for the print version, with the associated printing costs. Utterly insane. Verdict: F
    4) Placement. Well, it's the Internet. It could scarcely be more accessible. However, it's the Internet, so there could scarcely be more competition. Verdict: C

    Murdoch doesn't want to see "his" content looked at by non-paying customers, and is arrogant enough to believe they'll pay if forced. The journalists are arrogant enough to believe that their self-important opinion pieces will be enough to make people pay for content that they could get free elsewhere. The whole thing looks like an exercise in hubris. It's not hard to see this will end in tears.

  • Comment number 16.

    Hmm, do I pay £104 per year for the Times and the Sunday Times, or £145.50 per year for BBC1, 2, 3, 4, CBBC, CBeebies, BBC News & Parliament, Radios 1 through to 7, BBC Local Radio, news.bbc.co.uk, iPlayer...

    It's a no-brainer.

  • Comment number 17.

    "No," he insisted,"I want my employer to be paid for my intellectual property."

    Ah, the free frank views of those whose heart and soul are in the press.

  • Comment number 18.

    While I can understand them wanting to protect their IP, it would be good if they presented an "IP bare" factual account of the story (where relevant) to search engines so that people searching for information can at least find the relevant facts that the journalists themselves were often given. That way the newspaper doesn't have to give up IP, but the basic, non-embellished facts of the story are at least available to people for free. It would be a shame for people if their ability to research things was curtailed as news sites are often very good sources of information.

    As a side note, however, I find it amusing that this tech blog seems filled with people who naively think that every action they do is "sticking it to the man", be they anti-Microsoft or now anti-Murdoch. I guess these people must just feel quite ineffectual in their real lives, and yet again we're seeing this attitude come out that everyone should work for free and everything should be free (apart from the people airing these views of course….they still want paid for whatever it is *they* do). The proletariat never appreciates products of the mind, and think that the only thing worth paying for are blisters.

    @ theworm #8

    "Facts aren't intellectual property and just because you have an opinion on a news topic doesn't mean you/your employer has a right to be paid for it."

    You don't seem to understand the issue at hand. If someone writes a book on, say, Word War 2 does the author deserve to be paid? After all, they are just reporting facts and facts are facts so why do they have a right to be paid for it? If someone writes a biography on someone famous do they deserve to be paid for simply reporting facts?

    It's not the facts that are in dispute, but the final news item which certainly does constitute IP.

  • Comment number 19.

    I must admit that I was only on the Times website yesterday and seeing today’s ‘new look’ think it is much improved with fewer adverts and far more emphasis on news.

    However, would I pay £1 a day or £2 a week to see such – perhaps. You see the fact is today we are used to getting things ‘for free’ – take the London Evening Standard, I remember when it went up to 50p a copy. For a daily newspaper often read during commuting that was a bit rich. And now it is a free publication, yet feel the content is as good as when was 50p.

    Now I am not one to often buy a newspaper, while there nice to read on a Sunday when one has the time to relax and ‘soak in the news’ otherwise the ‘dip in and see’ nature of the Internet for news, the fact one can get such news on demand from around the world is far more suited to today’s lifestyles.

    However, back to the point of paying for such – I would say my main source of news is from the BBC News website. But I am often annoyed at the typo’s that get in to articles, and the fact many seem short and without depth. Only for breaking news, and bigger events does it seem the BBC offers a deeper look at the news. Compare Channel 4’s news at 7pm to BBC News at 6. Yes Channel 4 has longer, but cover the same stories in a far deeper way (but not as shall draggy as News Night)

    Offer me rich news, little or no adverts from well versed Journalists – then yes I think would be happy to pay, perhaps not all time because I equally feel to sit at a computer and read longer articles can often be tiring on the eyes compared to the printed publication. Now I do not, but if did have an E-Reader where the Times could be waiting in the morning on it and cost me £1 then that would be another matter...And likely this already is possible.

    Still it shall be interesting to see how this pans out and if other news outlets go the same way. What I dread though is if we have all ‘the good’ news to be paid for and a ‘Metro esk’ poor man’s version for everyone else.

  • Comment number 20.

    I actually work for the Times Subscriptions helpline, and we've been getting a lot of calls recently asking about this. I'm not the biggest fan of murdochs papers, but we know we're going to have a backlash about this, and its been prepared for. End result is, content does need to be paid for, and it was niave for all print media to start putting free content online and not forseeing that they would run into trouble.

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    ...A better idea having thought about things is an 'iTunes' type micro payment system. And I mean micro.

    You open an account linked to your credit card. Each time you log on, and read a story you have a small 'tit bit'of a headline and first paragraph of what it is about and then 'continue reading' link - at which point, clicking such would be charged at say 2pence.

    These micro payments would be all stored until such a chargable amount (say £1+) was reached and such dedcuted from your card and email sent to you with a break down of the stories read. You could have opt in's for people to link what they read to advertisers, so if someone was to oftn read stories about the America's, advertising relevent to that could be placed - thus helping bring in revenue for the publication, but also being perhaps linked to the content (much as Google does) only such being drilled down furhter to the individual reading habits of the subscriber. (privacy issues anyone?)

    This way if you only wanted to read about Cricket, but had no interest in Technology you pay for what you need. Because the price would be low, many would agree to pay. Because many would agree, they might make some money from it.

  • Comment number 23.

    In regards to my last post. After rereading it I realise I come across slightly preachy. It was not intended to come out that way whatsoever, and as pointed out I'm not a fan of Murdochs papers or practices.

  • Comment number 24.

    BBC - £2.90 a week for BBC1, BBC2, BBC3, BBC4, CBeebies, CBBC, News24, BBC Parliament, Red Button services, Radio's 1 thru 7, local radio, a news and sport website.
    Times/Sunday Times - £2 a week for the Times and Sunday Times ....

    What a difficult choice?!?

  • Comment number 25.

    I'm obviously missing something here.

    They are taking content written for the paper and putting it on a medium with no printing costs and lower distribution costs, charging the same amount as the print version and still having adverts? Seriously dumb!

    Oh and for those happy with adverts. The latest figures available show a family of 4 is paying around £640 a year in additional cost on products to fund TV and paper advertising. Imagine what you could buy with that!

  • Comment number 26.

    @18 aidy. You wrote: "As a side note, however, I find it amusing that this tech blog seems filled with people who naively think that every action they do is "sticking it to the man", be they anti-Microsoft or now anti-Murdoch. I guess these people must just feel quite ineffectual in their real lives"

    And your reason for belittling others' actions, imputing motives to them out of thin air and then mocking them for it is that you feel so effectual in your real life?

  • Comment number 27.

    18. At 11:19am on 25 May 2010, Aidy wrote:
    As a side note, however, I find it amusing that this tech blog seems filled with people who naively think that every action they do is "sticking it to the man", be they anti-Microsoft or now anti-Murdoch. I guess these people must just feel quite ineffectual in their real lives,


    My reply:
    Actually it's just another form of voting. Some people (myself included) don't like Murdoch's grip on the press industry. Thus we vote with our wallets and support other news agents.
    Just like I don't want Tesco's to have ultimate control over all of our consumer goods - so I support my local butchers (et al) where ever I can.

    Obviously practicalities sometimes get in the way of our principles (eg if I want to do my shopping on a Sunday or if I'm short of cash one week, then my local butchers - as excellent as they are - is not an option. And where I live we don't have cable, so we reluctantly signed up for Sky over Virgin.
    However under the circumstances where I'm given the choice between two relatively equal products, I will always choose the product from a smaller/struggling company (to keep an even/competitive market) or one with ethics I agree most with.

    You may argue that one customer doesn't make any difference, and you'd be right. However, just like our democracy, if everybody felt this way then nobody would vote and nobody would support local businesses (et al). So I do what I can and hope that others have the sense to do the same.

    So my actions have nothing to do with ego or inadequacies - it's just me doing what I personally feel is the "right thing".


    You said:
    and yet again we're seeing this attitude come out that everyone should work for free and everything should be free (apart from the people airing these views of course….they still want paid for whatever it is *they* do). The proletariat never appreciates products of the mind, and think that the only thing worth paying for are blisters.

    My reply:
    That's actually a fair point. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing for people to expect /some/ services for free given our evolved ability to generate revenue (eg sponsorship, product placement, favourable reviews, traditional adverts, etc). after all, Google's entire business is based around this concept.

    However, there does come a point where supplementary income does not cover the entire cost of a product - and that's the point where consumers *HAVE* to pay.

    What I don't understand is people who demand free goods AND get wound up by adverts.

  • Comment number 28.

    The strategists at the Times have got it so wrong. This is Old Media really failing to grasp how journalism has changed.

    It is a sledgehammer approach to monetising content which will fail because of the amount of free high-quality journalism available on the web.

    By contrast the Guardian have opened more of their content to content consumers and developers via their open platform http://www.guardian.co.uk/open-platform. This will open new ways for them to generate revenue for their content without putting their journalists in a walled garden.

    One media group innovating, another looking like it has no new ideas.

  • Comment number 29.

    Frankly, in a world of high quality free news who needs to pay for the Times?

    Paid subscription may work in a specialist environment like the Economist but a newspaper - no way.

    If Murdoch achives what he wants then OK. For me I dont see the benefit of paying £1 or £2 for things I get for free elsewhere.

    Perhaps this too will see the end ot over paid journalistpushing a particular political line to support their own importance.

  • Comment number 30.

    As long as the BBC remains funded by us, it will be free, and as long as the BBC remains free, I'm not paying a single penny for news.

  • Comment number 31.

    #1. At 07:55am on 25 May 2010, MarkG wrote:

    Why would anyone PAY to get Murdoch's crap? The BBC may be flawed in lots of ways, but the news it provides is top notch and free.

    --------
    Er... have you heard of the BBC licence fee? It's a tax which all UK citizens pay if you own a TV without exception. So hardly "free".

    Atleast we have a choice to pay for Murdock's crap as you put it.

  • Comment number 32.

    "30. At 2:41pm on 25 May 2010, MacBookPro wrote:
    As long as the BBC remains funded by us, it will be free, and as long as the BBC remains free, I'm not paying a single penny for news."

    That makes no sense.

  • Comment number 33.

    given how the traffic to the sites will plummet the loss of advertising revenue will be almost total. therefore they will need a huge number of subscribers just to go nowhere.

    given that news is news and generally its the same regardless of who is telling you this seems like a monumentally stupid idea. I hope that the current users of news corps slanted view of the world will enjoy the free higher quality of news available elsewhere.

  • Comment number 34.

    The distinction here is news vs journalism.

    If you want news, check out the bbc, reuters, CNN, etc


    If you want journalism, opinion, entertaining prose, you may have to go a little further.

    I'll miss Jeremy Clarkson and Giles Coren, but I won't pay a quid a week for them.

    I'd pay 5p each though, and the times will get more money from me than they do right now.

  • Comment number 35.

    As others have said, give it 6 - to - 8 weeks, and it'll be gone anyway. They should have at least made sure that people are willing to register for free to see the pages first. I doubt people will even want to do that, to be honest. They'll just hit the login-wall and go elsewhere.

    The only sites this sort of thing will work on are specialist publications, academic journals, and financial pages. The Times is simply too generic to be able to make money from this, the information contained therein is too easy to find elsewhere.

  • Comment number 36.

    This has nothing to do with paying for "quality journalism" and a lot to do with media politics and the unbalanced market place where commercial services exist alongside the public service provider (BBC). This is another salvo in the war between News International and the BBC. News International will be able to argue that the existence of the BBC website hinders its commercial viability - and the failure of its paywall will prove it. As news consumption continues to move from the paper to the electronic world, all commercial providers will place tremendous, and perhaps unbearable, pressure on the government to severely limit the BBC's online activities. It's not quite time to start dusting off your CV Rory; but the day is coming.

  • Comment number 37.

    I won't personally trust ANY of Murdoch's media outlets, simply because there is a conflict of interests when you rely on advertisers.

    As mentioned elsewhere, £2.50 a week for everything Beeb beats £2 a week for some Murdoch crap. Hell they could throw SkyTV in for free and it would still be worse than BBC's offering.

  • Comment number 38.

    Why would anyone continue to advertise through the online Times when they aim to get rid of 90% of their potential customers?
    I'd hate to be in the Ads department and try to sell that one to the Advertisers! "Well we could have got you to be seen by a potential 21 million viewers, but we're trying to get that down to about 2 million for you" I doubt if the ad rates will be slashed by a similar percentage.

    I fear an Independent like talent cull in about 3months!

  • Comment number 39.

    Finkelstein says that he wants his employer to be paid for his intellectual property. Fair enough. That's the old way.

    If Finkelstein wanted to capitalise on his own intellectual property he could turn his writing into cash via a blog/web site paid for by ads -- or even by subscribers if his thoughts were particularly brilliant.

    What about the idea that Murdoch isn't very impressed by losing shedloads of money on newspaper websites and thinks they can be paid for or shut. That would make sense to me. Why run a vastly expensive website which doesn't pay its way. I wouldn't buy the idea that more people buy the paper because they see the website (the shop window idea).

    Murdoch isn't a philanthropist (no one disagrees with this I'm sure). He wants to be paid. So put up or shut up, make profits or close is his motto.

    The result will be the websites shut I'm sure. But his reasoning makes sense

  • Comment number 40.

    The paywall will ensure that the newspapers' websites become increasingly irrelevant and out of touch with the national and global conversation, if the frightening drop in readership does not scare the pants off of the management.

    It might be better for all if they simply did not have a web site at all and ceased publication of the associated newspaper titles.

    Cull The Times and The Sunday Times now (both paper and website) it will save you a lot of money. Pack up and leave the field of play for those better able and more in tune with the real World.

    The reason that the web sites are not commercially viable is that what the times says is irrelevant and no longer part of the national conversation!

  • Comment number 41.

    All interesting comments, and a lot I agree with. However, it might be more interesting to figure out a business model that would allow newspapers to be paid, and still attract subscribers.
    One of the biggest problems I have seen with online news is that there is so much duplication, the same story is carried by so many newspapers, as every newspaper has to rush to cover the every story in order to keep up.

    What I would like to see is a database of news stories with some form of synopsis, a category to tell if it is a straight report or whether there is background information or in depth investigation, the reporters name and perhaps an indication of how many times it has been accessed. The author, or newspaper, would get paid by number of accesses.

    Subscribers could pay per-view, per number of accesses or some combination. I know there are holes, but there are a lot of clever people out there...

    I'll accept a few non-voting shares for the idea! (not really new though for anyone whos has read Snow Crash!)

  • Comment number 42.

    Times Online, you are dead to me.

  • Comment number 43.

    it's pretty easy for all of these smug contributors to talk about the 'old way' and the 'new way' while admitting they're not actually prepared to pay for anything. the reality is that the free content phenomenon is decimating the ranks of so-called 'content producers', formerly known as writers, musicians etc. no one commenting here would work for free, so why should these journalists or the people who pay them for their work?

    i love the BBC and i'd never pay a penny for a murdoch publication, but i am utterly perplexed by remarks such as this: 'why run a vastly expensive website which doesn't pay its way' which (unironically) follows about 30 comments from people who insist that they won't pay for any content online. in other words, no website can 'pay its way' whether it's owned by murdoch or the dalai lama but rather than looking at what's problematic about that we'll take potshots at easy targets like murdoch.

    the fact is that there's an uneven playing field in online journalism. that's what happens when a publicly-subsidised organisation running off an obligatory license fee competes with commercial providers covering their own costs. this has nothing whatsoever to do with new media and everything to do with good old-fashioned competition, so let's drop the charade that there's some principle at stake here.

  • Comment number 44.

    @Circumspect - How much do you pay for your subscription to ITV? That's right, nothing. Because it's funded by advertising, just like the papers.

    No-one's suggestion that journalists should work for free. Mostly what people are saying is that:

    - The price is too high for the value of the content,
    - The price is too high given the lower distribution costs online,
    - The side effects of the paywall in eliminating casual readers will cut the advertising income,
    - The bundling effect of having to pay for the whole paper, rather than being able to pick out articles of interest, is an unwelcome retrograde step over other online news sites.

    My experience seems similar to that of other posters; I never go to the Times website directly, but I do get referred there by blogs, twitter etc. and read the occasional article. At the moment that gets advertising views, I may possibly consider paying per article with a micropayments system. I am definitely not going to subscribe to the whole paper just to follow the occasional link.

  • Comment number 45.

    Won't work - ever!

  • Comment number 46.

    Murdocks accountants must have agreed this, so they must expect 400k people to forkout £2 a week.

    I think they will get loyal customers. Generally if people buy a paper they stick to the same one each day, and £2 seems a good price point.

    It will be interesting to see how they market this. Limiting the links on Google etc then having an ad on the side say "Read more on this story or any other for only £2" seems a a bit wierd. They need to convince the consumer that their journalism is a USP - unlikely.

  • Comment number 47.

    Why does the Times site look worse than the Times Online. And anyone can tell them this is a failed experiment. There is much better content on the internet available for free. The Times is not as specialist a paper as the FT.

  • Comment number 48.

    @_Ewan_ i have no idea what this means: 'The price is too high for the value of the content'. how is this value determined, and by whom? if the starting point is that everything is or should be free and that readers will no longer develop relationships with publications, content producers will have to spend a lot of time 'selling' each piece of content. this seems like a pretty unrealistic way of running a newspaper, whether it's the times or the ham & high in London.

    besides, this value argument works both ways. i view a ton of free content online, and i also have subscriptions to several print magazines. if that free content were to disappear i'd be disappointed and that might prompt me to pay for some of it. if not, i'm not sure how valuable i ever was to the person paying to produce that content.

    this is why i remain unclear about why journalists should be so desperate to have their content 'go viral' with lots of casual readers finding it through links and so on, if they still can't pay their rent.

    you imply this should come from advertising. as a website owner myself i know that advertisers are not happy to rely on these casual visitors seeing their adverts, nor are they content to be assured of a certain number of pageviews. instead, they're demanding ever-deeper levels of engagement with their ads, which means viewers are leaving the content they were viewing behind. this is all advertisers are willing to pay for.

    these are companies that were happy to spend a king's ransom on print advertising with no guarantee that their advert wouldn't end up in the bottom of your cat's litter tray, but they won't fork over a penny unless publishers provide detailed stats proving that viewers developed a deep and meaningful relationship with their idiotic flashing banner complete with its intrusive voice-over.

    so in my experience, the technology squeeze works both ways as well and i don't see this leaving publishers with many options.

  • Comment number 49.

    @_Ewan_ i have no idea what this means: 'The price is too high for the value of the content'. how is this value determined, and by whom?

    By the potential customers. Like, for example, evergrowingbrain at #34 who said:
    "I'll miss Jeremy Clarkson and Giles Coren, but I won't pay a quid a week for them. I'd pay 5p each though, and the times will get more money from me than they do right now."
    Or, in a nutshell, the price is too high, the content that they're interested in isn't worth the amount of money that's being asked for it.

    content producers will have to spend a lot of time 'selling' each piece of content

    I'm not sure that's true. Good stuff tends to be able to find an audience online (as demonstrated by the political blogs), mostly through the sort of recommendations and referrals that a paywall will stop dead. Once people know of something they can easily turn into regular readers.

    One of the differences with 'new media' as opposed to newspapers is that it's a lot more individual and fragmented, so consumers can build their own portfolio of people that they want to read, rather than getting the one-size-fits-all selection of a newspaper editor. Taking the previous example again, evergrowingbrain knows they want to read Clarkson and Coren, and would pay for that, but can't. Instead they're only offered the whole of the Times as a bundle, and by being forced into an all or nothing choice they've chosen nothing. Which seems a poor outcome for the publisher.

  • Comment number 50.

    I can't see this working - most of the news is a commodity that can be got online for free from other newspapers or from the BBC (which as somebody pointed out isn't free but funded by an enforced levy) Will i pay for the unique content such as the comments and features? Probably not, there's plenty of free stuff in the quality blogs.

  • Comment number 51.

    All I can say right now is GOOD LUCK, cos you're going to need it.

  • Comment number 52.

    Hmm, let's see: do I choose facts for free, or do I choose opinions I have to pay for? Tough choice... sorry Rupert, you're onto a loser there.

  • Comment number 53.

    Journalists do a lot of research (unless recycling a press release), and in the last few years people have generally been happy to help for free, on the proviso that a link is provided (to improve search rankings and number of visitors). There is a possibility that this free help may wither away a little, and become more traditional as in a paid advisor.

    Free membership, with a free synopsis (teaser) and then 5 or 10p per article would work better in my view, as often one or two stories/articles of real interest.

  • Comment number 54.

    I'll happily pay for it if it comes with a money-back guarantee: any time I read a story that's inaccurate or misleading, I get that whole week's subscription for free.

    Do we have a deal, Mr Murdoch?

  • Comment number 55.

    Good Bye News of the World. I will stick from now on to the BBC and free blogs. I hate the Sun anyway...:)

  • Comment number 56.

    @DisgustedOfMitcham2 would you take his printed toilet paper back to the newsagents if there were any untrue stories? I doubt they'd want to give your money back.

    Murdoch's paywall is a good thing, it'll stop me reading any of his junk by accident, it'll stop folks twittering links to his website and it will reduce his advertising revenue. Quite simply it's a last gasp effort by an organisation that doesn't understand the Internet and how to exploit it.

    I've not bought any newspaper since 31st August 1997 because they're filled with junk. I doubt I'll miss seeing the Times online any more than I miss his printed stuff.

  • Comment number 57.

    BBC Online news is free. You are not required to pay anything for it. It is paid for by people who want to watch live television broadcasts.

  • Comment number 58.

    I am convinced this will be a failure; I can't see many overseas people paying for it, or indeed many people at all outside the industry.

    I thought I might as well have a look at the 'free trial' in my professional capacity (web development), but first I had to supply loads of fake personal data, then the site kept asking me to change my password, but not actually doing anything beyond that.

    Personally I take great offence at being asked to pay for the online content - which for all newspapers is inferior to a printed copy as either not all the content is online or it is just too hard to find because the websites tend to be extremely unintuitive considering how much money must have been spent on them.

    As a small way of showing my discontent I shall resolve never again to by a copy of the Times or Sunday Times for as long as their websites are operating behind a paywall.

  • Comment number 59.

    Europe is calling for improved digital literacy, actions to reduce poverty and foreign language skills.

    In my view The Times' policy is counteracting these ideas. Reduced budgets won't allow schools, teachers, learners to access quality information in their own or the foreign language they are learning/teaching. Where is The Times' social responsibility. Do they realise they exclude people who are well less off, schools, teachers who often earn very little in other countries, young people who need to develop their media skills, critical thinking and active citicenship, and others from quality information?

    At the turn of the 19/20 situation Vienna developed a coffee house culture. Many bright people spent whole days in coffee houses where they had access to newspapers and meet other intellectuals and could spend hours there just drinking 1 cup of coffee....also in the second half of the 20 century my father used to go, have one small cup of coffee and read all the papers he wouldn't buy himsels as this would be too costly...

    Internet has made it possible to open access to independent views also for citizens in countries where media do not provide that variety of opinions...It's true that even quality papers nowadays just do copy paste or produce trash, and I can understand that also publishing houses cannot just offer freebies; but an intelligent policy and new services might help to develop intelligent solutions while showing social reposibility

  • Comment number 60.

    Bye Bye Timesonline is what I say.
    The MASS majority of what I see online is the same information repeated by most journalists on the big stories of the day. If I want the more in depth information like the Lady Gaga interview then I'd buy the paper. But I only tend to do that at the weekend when I have time and there is more content that is not already out of date by the time I buy the paper, even if that is first thing in the morning.
    Now I didn't use the Times website much, but now I'm not going to use it atall. And maybe I'd be less likely to buy the print edition now as well.

  • Comment number 61.

    The traditional press business model is in decline, Rupert Murdoch knows this but is a big figure in an old game and perhaps just slightly in denial. He is trying to impose "old" press mogul values on a market that has shifted radically, one where there are new players who have already taken the ground he didnt spot emerging under his feet, players with very profitable businesses based on indexing published web content for their own (very profitable) ends, and boy does that hurt. Newscorp's refusal to allow internet search engines like Google to index the new site is not surprising, although it does seem a bit ridiculous as the market shift has already occured.
    Newscorp does not want to become a commodity supplier of information and opinions, but on the web, that is exactly what it is, and in a commodity market the winners are usually those who deliver high value at the best price. On the net most content is free, unless it is something like a scientific research paper, so the answer for Newscorp would seem to be to innovate and find new ways to fund and maintain high quality journalistic standards (without relying on a paywall), not holding its breath till it goes blue in the face.

  • Comment number 62.

    I don't sign up for membership of websites, forums and blogs when the content is 'free' I'm really not going to start doing it when they're after money!

    for anyone else who (like me) doesn't want to give out details to every other website with even the tiniest bit of content - check out bugmenot

  • Comment number 63.

    Times Online, you are dead to
    me.

  • Comment number 64.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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