Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Murdoch Paywall of Death

there is a v. interesting article here on the economics of newsmedia paywalls.  Hat-tip Flashing Blade.  It is worth reading it all to try and understand what News is doing here.  They have lost revenue (it seems) by making the Times content paid for on line.  I used to get a daily email from The Times, with its main stories, and you could click through to read them if you were interested.  But on my BlackBerry or PC the experience wasn't great.  The Times is my newspaper of choice (although boy are they keen on the Coalition these days, especially the blue half), and has been for a number of years, ever since I stopped reading the Guardian, about the time the latter started (OK, it never really stopped) hating Labour and supporting the Taleban.  But I cannot realistically buy the physical paper here in France, and I don't want a bigger recycling pile than I already have anyway, so once I got my iPad I subscribed.  It is not ad-free on the iPad app, despite what people in the comments suggest, but the reading experience is just great.  You can get straight to the piece you want to read (in my case the Dubya memoir extract at lunchtime, save me reading the whole book), and it remembers where you were last time you opened that edition.  It can be a little slow to download; I try and remember to tap on it when I get up in the morning, so it downloads at home on wifi rather than using up my 3G minutes on the way to work.  Am I boring you?  Anyway, the piece suggests that if people have to pay to subscribe they are going to want a niche experience, a read that chimes with their views.  Well, yes.  Isn't that what people have always wanted from newspapers?  Isn't that why there is more than one newspaper in non-totalitarian countries? It suggests that newspapers are becoming more like newsletters.  I disagree.  But I think it is true that Murdoch can afford to take a drop in revenue and see how it goes.  And when you subscribe like this, as I have discovered, you feel a kind of loyalty - and you certainly read more of the articles.
I also read Le Monde, though not all of it because it has A Lot Of Words.  Currently I have a subscription to the paper edition, weekend papers and mag only, which works; I can read the headline stories on line free but it is really crap.  They do have an iPad app now (since about two weeks ago) but they are currently refusing to unsubscribe me from the paper edition.  All you can do is take a three-month holiday from it, for anything else you have to be interviewed by Nicolas Sarkozy as far as I can tell.  Oh and you have to do the transaction on paper.  Because this is France.  Chiz.  Last weekend there was an article about cheese.  There always is.  And they have a dismaying tendency, whenever there is an Issue Of The Day, to commission an article by - a philosopher.

Anyway, read the piece I have linked to, the comments too.  I'd be interested to know what readers think.


Anonymous said...

Not interested in a book that has been scripted by a ghost-writer.

Might as well read the works of Joradan.

dreamingspire said...

The Shirky article that you point to is just one snapshot of the general problem that he discusses at length in his immediately previous article (dateline April 1st, but by no means an April Fool contribution) - and I agree with him, just wishing that I could have put it so fluently.

Jonny said...

I've been on the Times online readers' panel for the last five months, so I get an Amazon voucher every month and a free subscription. The thing that comes across about "niche" material is that people want stuff that isn't in the print edition, since it appears that most of the online readers (about 70%) also buy the print version. I don't, because of Wapping and Hillsborough.
The other comment that comes up again and again is the the Guardian, Telegraph, Mail, BBC and innumerable other online news media are free, so why pay for what is still yesterday's cyberfish and chip paper?