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Murdoch's UK Paywall a Miserable Failure

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the sorry-rupert dept.

The Media 428

David Gerard writes "As part of his war against free, Rupert Murdoch put the Times and Sunday Times of London behind a paywall. Michael Wolff of Newser asks how that's working out for him. You can guess: miserable failure: 'Not only is nobody subscribing to the website, but subscribers to the paper itself — who have free access to the site — are not going beyond the registration page. It's an empty world.' Not that this wasn't entirely predictable." Update: 07/17 01:41 GMT by T : Frequent contributor Peter Wayner writes skeptically that the Newsday numbers should be looked at with a grain of salt: "I believe they were charging $30/month for the electronic edition and $25/month for the dead tree edition which also offered free access to the electronic edition. In essence, you had to pay an extra $5 to avoid getting your lawn littered with paper. The dead tree edition gets much better ad rates and so it is worth pushing. It's a mistake to see the raw numbers and assume that the paywall failed."

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428 comments

Duh... (5, Insightful)

guruevi (827432) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924706)

This experiment has been tried over the last few decades (ever since the papers discovered the commercial Internet) and has failed miserably every time. Some magazines/papers even closed their doors after they tried it because they invested too much money in something that had 0 return on investment and alienated their existing audience that was actually paying their bills.

Re:Duh... (5, Interesting)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924738)

Not every time - The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times & Economist (same company) are a couple that worked. I can't think of anymore that worked though. And it is interesting the subject matter of those three papers. There must be a couple of more exceptions.

Re:Duh... (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924812)

Interesting what kinds of people are receptive to efforts of maintaining crashing business models?

Re:Duh... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32924872)

The obvious reason why WSJ and FT succeeded is because they provide stock information which is a heavily regulated market that costs a *lot* to get into and to provide. Therefore there aren't any free alternatives (*) -- everyone who offers stock information charges for it, and the audience is used to this fact and accepts it.

The brand recognition and virtual monopoly position enjoyed by these two papers would also have helped.

(*) Yes, I know there are free stock listing all over the place, but you'll notice that all of them have a time delay of at least several hours. Real-time stock data is only available to those willing to pay for it.

Re:Duh... (5, Insightful)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925054)

I'd have to say that the Economist is *far* more informational in value than the WSJ. When traveling, I almost always pick up a copy of the Economist from a newsstand to read on the plane (but would like/pay for an iPad version if they made it).

Re:Duh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32925296)

Well, you'll then be happy to know that they ARE working on an iPad application.

I interviewed with them a couple of months ago and that came up on the interview ;)

Re:Duh... (3, Funny)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924854)

the Financial Times & Economist (same company)

No, The FT (subsidiary of Pearson PLC) owns 50% of the Economist, not a controlling interest.

Re:Duh... (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925064)

Not de jure, but come on, do you really think they can't rent one more voting share whenever they need an abstention? If I were Pearson PLC, I'd treat the Economist as bought and paid for. Wouldn't you?

Re:Duh... (5, Interesting)

aCC (10513) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924876)

For the Economist, I (as a subscriber) can tell you why it worked for their subscribers: they offer fantastic value. I sing the praise for the Economist whenever I can, because I think that they are one of the few companies that get it. With my paper subscription I get:
1. Full access to the website including ALL past issues!
2. The current issue as an audio podcast (800MB!).
3. I can cancel my subscription whenever I want AND GET THE REMAINING MONEY BACK! (This is a big YES THEY GOT HOW TO TREAT THEIR CUSTOMERS.)
4. If there are problems with deliveries (e.g. a UK postal strike), they switched to hand deliveries to make sure the subscribers got their issues.

These are all added-value services that ensure I will subscribe to their magazine even though I manage to read it only occasional due to the volume of articles. Obviously, I also believe their articles are top-notch (they even get technology reasonably well).

I am not affiliated with the Economist in any way. Just a very happy customer.

Re:Duh... (5, Interesting)

Tridus (79566) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924896)

Wow, yeah. That's a great example of customer service adding value to a product.

It also helps that the Economist tends to have quality and unique content. It's something you can find from 5000 other sources at the same time, as opposed to your average newspaper.

Re:Duh... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32924986)

I agree. My home newspaper, the StarTribune in Minneapolis, started printing AP feeds directly years ago. I assume most papers today also print stories from "the wire" without any editing whatsoever. As Tridus implies, why would I pay fr something I can find somewhere else, probably for free.

Re:Duh... (2, Informative)

Vintermann (400722) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924992)

They get technology reasonably well. They occasionally call out the occasional walking piece of corruption that other are resigned to (read: Silvio Berlusconi). But editorial-wise, they are very far right. They supported the iraq war, they believed in WMD, and they denied global warming for a very long time (until 2007?).

Re:Duh... (5, Insightful)

deoxyribonucleose (993319) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925120)

They get technology reasonably well. They occasionally call out the occasional walking piece of corruption that other are resigned to (read: Silvio Berlusconi). But editorial-wise, they are very far right. They supported the iraq war, they believed in WMD, and they denied global warming for a very long time (until 2007?).

Far right? Too simplistic. You may not like all their editorial stances, but that does not make them right (sic!). They were and remain skeptical of proposed measures against global warming: would they be effective? would they be efficient? which aren't bad questions to raise for a magazine with that name. Being skeptical is not necessarily 'denying', especially if you prove willing to change your stance with further evidence. They also want to abolish the British monarchy (for starters): not exactly the position one traditionally associates with the conservative right. On Iraqi WMD they were duped and admitted it frankly: so were plenty of other publications and institutions few would call 'right-wing'. They also fell heads-over-heel for Obama.

Me? I'm just a sucker for beatiful and efficient prose, with an occasional dash of dry humour. Would that I could achieve it.

Re:Duh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32925132)

They did however decline to endorse Dubya for a second term, realizing that anyone would be a better choice.

Re:Duh... (5, Insightful)

mcelrath (8027) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925278)

The name of the magazine is "The Economist". They have a particular viewpoint (hint, it's in the name). On that topic and from that perspective they are very, very good. On non-economic topics, why would you expect them to be any better than your local newspaper? Read it for what it is and what it represents: an economic perspective. Of course there's more to life than economics, and you should look elsewhere for editorials on it.

Re:Duh... (2, Insightful)

RonVNX (55322) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925072)

The Economist has been getting this right forever. Full current and back issues, and they never tried to foist PDFs on subscribers instead of HTML.

Re:Duh... (4, Funny)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925178)

Maybe he should have tried this experiment with The Sun. With your paper subscription you get:

1. Tits

Re:Duh... (2, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924892)

A pretty sizable chunk of scientific and other academic journals have operated reasonably successful paywalls(though their cases probably differ a bit because their main market is University/Institutional libraries and negotiating site licenses with the same. Their paywalls don't actually need to rack up many, if any, individual subscribers, they just have to make the prospect of using the journal without an institutional subscription, or a compelling need, so ridiculous that the institution caves and buys a site license).

On the other hand, they've drawn some fairly massive flack over the issue, so, if the open access guys get their way, it could end up costing them rather badly in the long run.

Re:Duh... (1)

cybaz (538103) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924894)

ESPN.com has an Insider section that you need to pay to access. It's been relatively successful, they claim to have 350,000 subscribers.

Re:Duh... (1)

sharky611aol.com (682311) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925006)

It probably helps that you get a subscription to ESPN The Magazine with a subscription to their Insider section (or vice versa). It all goes back to added value.

Re:Duh... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32925020)

Not every time - The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times & Economist (same company) are a couple that worked. I can't think of anymore that worked though. And it is interesting the subject matter of those three papers. There must be a couple of more exceptions.

Financial papers can charge for access because they are a tool that people use to make more money (not to mention they can be written off as a business expense). When viewed that way, it makes perfect sense. Nearly all of the other papers out there are essentially just passive infotainment.

Re:Duh... (-1, Troll)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925032)

Don't celebrate yet.

They aren't done.

What Murdoch and other Rich corporations (ATT, Verizon) are trying to do now is get the FCC to take-away free access to the news. The FCC has developed a plan to lock-up previously free content by handing frequencies to cellphone companies. What was once free (via antenna) will now only be available via an expensive Cellphone subscription (~$100 a month) or Cable Net subscription (~$60/month). The surprising part is that Obama announced he supports the plan.

Re:Duh... (4, Insightful)

zevans (101778) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925134)

I'm interested to see how the FCC plan to impose this on the London Times, the Independent, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Die Welt, Le Monde...

Two words: google hole (1)

alexmin (938677) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925112)

WSJ, FT, and Economists walls are made of swiss cheese. Could it be a reason why those sites are not shut down yet?

And it won't even work if everyone does it (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32924782)

If it costs to read news, people go to competitor's website. But even if all the major news sources began doing that, they wouldn't get the subscribers they want. There would be a few bloggers who would subscribe and post (even) more dramatic, (even) more provocative and (even) less accurate descriptions of the events and people would read those blogs. If the subcribtion costs would skyrocket, even the bloggers wouldn't subscribe.

I think that the best shot for traditional news media is to take advantage this: People want to pay for what they appreciate. I wouldn't want to buy an expensive subscribe to a magazine from which I read one or two articles a day on most days. But let's say that each article had "Thanks" button that costs 15 cents to click? I think I would click that pretty often. (Perhaps a drop down menu to donate even larger sums to some articles) Add some "20 cents to comment" cost and - if it rocks your boat - a bit of social media like qualities so you can see what articles your friends, favorite politicians, etc. saw as worth supporting.

Re:Duh... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32924834)

I'll bet you remember every one of those decades of commercial Internet.
 
No? Not even one? Yeah, I bet you wouldn't remember the one very clearly if you're young enough that you thought there had been more than that.

Re:Duh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32924848)

You could say the same thing about tablet computer failing over the past few years...and mp3s until Apple came into the scene (Rio player anyone?). I give Murdoch credit for trying when everyone else is going bankrupt, but the problem is that he didn't really change or add to the business plan of paywall - and not the fact that others have tried and failed paywall in the past.

Re:Duh... (5, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924918)

ever since the papers discovered the commercial Internet

Commercial internet... Commercial internet... Commercial internet... Jees I'm getting old. I miss the nineties and early zeros when the closest thing to a "commercial internet" was a web page with a single ad banner, which everyone bitched and moaned about to no avail. None of the sites I ran back then had any advertising at all; like most other folks' sites then, it was a labor of love.

The damned greedheads seem to ruin everything. Thank god people aren't falling for Murdoch's nonsense (yet).

Murdoch's terrible Faux News was on the TV in the bar last night and gees, if anyone would have talked about Bush when he was in office the way Murdoch's "news" station talks about Obama, Faux News and the neocons would have called them "traitors" and screamed bloody murder.

Re:Duh... (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924962)

Well, when it was worth trying to do that with a reputable newspaper like the Times. Here in France, the most popular newspaper (Le Monde) did the opposite : they gave their article for free on their website and while the website is popular, the newspaper is bankrupt and is being sold.

I like Murdoch as much as the next geek, but news reporting is still in search for a business model on the web.

I've seen the other side...! (5, Interesting)

openfrog (897716) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925168)

I am a subscriber to the Times Literary Supplement. This year, I paid the supplementary 20$ to get Internet access, since I live in Canada and get the TLS with a substantial delay, and also because I was just curious given the scale of Murdoch's experiment, not talking about the scale of his pretensions.

So I am one of the very few who got past the registration page. The other side of this pay-wall allows us a peek on the dystopian nightmare that would have been the Internet if developed by corporations, and it is on a par with the current state of academic journals online. In order to undo what the Internet is meant to do, that is to hyperlink, Murdoch has spent a fortune developing a shiny interface that let us navigate through an exact reproduction of the paper thing. It is DRM by design: there is no way to copy and paste, to store, therefore to link, to annotate or to use in any meaningful sense of the word beyond a reading experience that is, as a result, as uncomfortable as it gets. The technical constraints that all this restraining impose make navigating and reading impractical and painful.

Despite the attractiveness of reading the TLS in a timely manner, I went to the site once and never repeated the experience.

Re:Duh... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32925242)

Disclaimer: I hate Murdoch and his empire.

I think it's easy for us to look at this and say "Obviously this will fail" and call it predictable. But you know, guys like him built their empires on trial and error and by doing things while everyone else said it was a bad idea.

So I do think it's slightly progressive of him to try this, but it's just too late. If he tried this from the start, the flow of information might be very different.

This applies to lots of things like the RIAA/MPAA too. They really missed their chance to develop pay models and now the stage is set for free access to these media. It's just what people expect now and it's a hard bell to unring.

However, I think the key point is that this happened by mistake and by large media's lack of foresight. If they had it to do over again, we'd have tired internet with limited data rates and micropayment systems on just about any type of content.

I think we should all take a moment and be proud of how the net evolved and count our blessings that we had the lucky streaks we did to end up with such freedoms on the web that we have. And we need to fight hard to protect them.

Oppinions (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32924712)

This is being presented as a fact, but its merely a oppinion based on insider information. No where it states any real numbers. Dont get me wrong, I dont agree with Murdoch's ways but that doesnt warrant factless bashing.

Re:Oppinions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32924770)

You must be knew hearr.

Re:Oppinions (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32924868)

Yes, factless bashing should never occur in proximity to a Murdoch media outlet...

Re:Oppinions (0, Flamebait)

jasmusic (786052) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924914)

And compared to competitors, it doesn't.

Re:Oppinions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32924980)

You must be counting the 'end is nigh' 'prophets' as competitors.

I am utterly surprised. (4, Insightful)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924716)

Who would have thought people would object to paying for information (or the closest Murdoch equivalent thereof; this guy owns Fox News) that is also provided for free?

Re:I am utterly surprised. (3, Insightful)

ZeroExistenZ (721849) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924838)

Who would have thought people would object to paying for information (or the closest Murdoch equivalent thereof; this guy owns Fox News) that is also provided for free?

I don't think that's the only problem: internet news tends to be very flaky to push out "interesting" articles and it allows "on the fly editting" compared to a paper for example: unnecessary sensationalists "breaking news!" banners, reedits and a general lower quality of written content.

So, people don't want to pay for sensationalist articles but would if the content would be, as you say, unique, solid and giving a decent added value: If I take the train and read the free Metro paper, log online and keep an eye on the newsfeeds from different RSS-feeds or different newspapers there's very cleary just some channels distributing the same "news" but depending on the papers "target crowd", reworded, restyled and reprioritized.

The "online news" seems often just like a gossip magazine.

Re:I am utterly surprised. (1)

Machtyn (759119) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924874)

No, I do believe that your cable/dish/whatever bill does pay for FoxNews if it is in your lineup (along with ad revenue, but the subscriber doesn't pay cash for that). It's funny, for everyone who rails on the guy for being conservative, he also owns the Fox network; which, for one example, runs the Simpsons - a fairly liberally minded social commentary show.

Re:I am utterly surprised. (3, Insightful)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924954)

Actually I'd say all the evidence points to him being a Capitalist first and a Conservative second; The Simpsons and related merchandising makes a LOT of money for Fox after all.

No wait, on second thoughts, make that "Old Fart out of touch with reality" first, then Capitalism and Conservatism...

still early days (4, Interesting)

jaymz2k4 (790806) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924724)

As much as I would love to see this fail, it's still early days in this projects inception, and I don't think they were expecting it to massively take off anyway. The paywall proper has only been in effect a few weeks, maybe better marketing and a better price point (I think £1 a day is too much for digitally delivered content, especially if the actual print edition is the same price!).

An interesting piece [guardian.co.uk] by David Mitchell at the Guardian as to why he would like to see this succeed is worth a read.

Re:still early days (5, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924840)

Lower prices would help, but that doesn't explain why the subscribers that get free access weren't going in their either. It's easy to say the price is too high, but when the people that have free access aren't using it either, you have to think that it's something else that's going on.

Re:still early days (4, Insightful)

nyctopterus (717502) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925172)

Because having to fill in forms--any forms--just to look at something on a website is something people just will not do. I think what is really important is not how much they charge (although it does seem a little steep), but is the hassle factor, having to go an find your coupon or whatever is just a pain in the neck. Totally not worth the hassle for most people.

Until there is a micro-payment system that's as easy as no payment at all (like say, the iTunes Store compared to your choice of P2P), there isn't going to be any headway in getting people to pay for this stuff.

Re:still early days (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32925228)

Yeah probably something like

'let me surf on over too... BAH login page. What was the login for this page again... Meh, who cares, where did I put the paper at'. or 'meh, let me go on over to the other 50 news sites that I do not have to remember a login for.'

Also if you are bothering to get the paper itself. You probably do not really care about the online aspect of it. You like to pull out the paper and go thru it. Or it is a subscription to something like a doctors office or someone at a office who likes to toss one on the lunch table.

I also heard it is something like 1 pound per day? That is a bit steep considering you can get physical news papers for much less if you have a subscription. Here in the states for newspapers you can get them as low as a quarter a day if you have a subscription. Putting it into perspective a british pound is worth what 1.5x a dollar on average?

Lowering the price would go a long way. As he is competing with all the other free sites out there. As many newspapers/websites just regurgitate AP or Reuters anyway. So he better be putting in a bunch of value add.

Re:still early days (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925118)

Pfft, all that he's saying is that he's better than you because he gets paid to say what you've just parroted for free.

Re:still early days (3, Insightful)

dwandy (907337) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925166)

David Mitchell badly misunderstands the news business which is scary as they seem to let him write for major news organizations.
The news has always been free.
The subscription cost (often barely) covered the printing and distribution costs. The Internet is the printer and distributor now, so this is essentially free. That is to say, we don't pay the paper any longer, we pay the ISP. The ads paid for news in the paper era, and Google's income and market cap lead me to believe that there is some potential for ad revenue on the internet.

I question Mr. Mitchel's intellectual honesty in this matter. He suggests that if the pay-walls don't work we'll be left with amateur bloggers writing 'shit'. That is one massive false dichotomy and reveals his true paper-age view of the world. More of my time is spent on blogs than at traditional media outlets [ /. !! ].
Will there continue to be a shake-up in the news business? Absolutely. More papers will die off, more editors, copy-guys etc will lose their jobs. That doesn't mean all we will be left with is amateur bloggers writing shit [there's enough of that here on /. , this post included :) ] . There will just be less papers reprinting the exact same article (sure there's pure mooches, but who really goes there? really?).
The Internet is a disruptive force (I believe mostly for the better) that allows for more efficient dissemination of information. In other words, the news should get cheaper as it costs less to obtain it. Since the news was already free I can actually foresee a day when readers get paid to read a site - as in news will be cheaper than free. My justification for this? Commercial over-the-air radio pays it's listeners via contests, prizes and give-aways. Google now pays companies to use it's maps. Etc. etc. eTc.

Free isn't a business model, but it has always been and will always be part of many effective and profitable business models. Stop getting hung up on the 'free' part and see the whole.

It's not the paywall that's failed (4, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924728)

It's doing exactly what it was designed to (although making it hard for legitimate subscribers to access the content sounds like it needs tweaking). The crashing failure is the business model. What Murdoch seems to have not understood is that while he can put up the price of the paper product and only lose a small proportion of his customers, sothe difference between a price of 50p and 51p is small, but on the internet the difference between 0p and 1p is huge.

Re:It's not the paywall that's failed (5, Insightful)

myocardialinfarction (1606123) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924810)

Here's the calculation: All of the BBC's content (TV,radio,news): £145.50 pa The Times and Sunday Times: £104 pa On a free market basis Rupees business model doesn't work. But business model inclues political interference in the financing of the BBC, on the basis that its competition is unfair. _On the contrary_. We in the UK pay for the BBC willingly because it is worth the price, and we don't for the Times because it's, well, who cares? The WSJ, FT and Economist are worth paying for to the folks in those industries. The Times is just some more crap from a Murdoch company.

Re:It's not the paywall that's failed (4, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924928)

I stopped paying the license fee over the BBC's decision to use DRM for its online offerings. I hadn't had a TV for about a year at that point, but I thought that the license fee was worth the money to support news.bbc.co.uk - it worked out cheaper than a daily newspaper, and the content is generally better. I still do, but I don't want any of my money going to fund DRM, so I'm not paying the fee (and, because I only watch TV shows after they are broadcast, on iPlayer or on DVD, I'm not legally required to). If they ditch the DRM on iPlayer, I'll start paying it again.

Re:It's not the paywall that's failed (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924966)

We in the UK pay for the BBC willingly because it is worth the price, and we don't for the Times because it's, well, who cares?

That's as far from the truth as could ever be. We pay for the BBC because it's a legal requirement of owning a TV set. There is no choice involved whatsoever (other than not owning a TV set, even if you only watch other channels).

Many people, probably most, would not pay for the BBC given the choice.

Re:It's not the paywall that's failed (2, Interesting)

Vintermann (400722) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925046)

We pay for the BBC because it's a legal requirement of owning a TV set.

Bah, by British brother in law soldered shut the antenna plug on his TV a while back, to save some license money when he wasn't using it.

Re:It's not the paywall that's failed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32925216)

He was lucky to get away with it - if that went to court, he'd probably lose.

Now if you don't have a TV at all, and you've written to TV Licensing twice asking if it's OK to cancel your DD, and you've received a response (thus proving they've read it) saying "we'll get back to you," and nothing else in six months - well, then you're probably safe. I really thought we'd have an inspector round once a week for a few months, but it seems Capita can't even deal with their post effectively, never mind run inspections effectively.

I've also complained to the BBC about putting auto-play live streams on "news" pages. I don't think they'd realised that could put someone in jail by accident - quite apart from the UI fail. It theoretically could. I haven't seen a page guilty of it since, interestingly, so maybe it was a worthwhile email - did get quite a sensible reply.

Re:It's not the paywall that's failed (3, Insightful)

myocardialinfarction (1606123) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925076)

The legal element of the license fee is mitigated solely by the public service element of the BBC. I'm not claiming to like giving money to the likes of Jonathan Ross, Chris Moyles or any other folks I never pay any attention to, but I would gladly pay that fee just for the BBC nature unit to continue, let alone the rest of the mountain of stuff I have gotten from them over the years. It's far from perfect, a lot of it is annoying, irrelevant or utter crap, but the point I was attempting to make is that it's better value than the Times, considering not only your consumption of it but also that of the rest of the people of the UK (or world).

Re:It's not the paywall that's failed (2, Insightful)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925198)

Bingo. I'd possibly pay for Radio 4, in order to keep it ad free, but the rest of the bunch of Stalinist luvvies can swing on my knob.

The thing that's really boiling my piss at the moment is that much of the (non disposable) programming is now timed to fit on commercial channels. Since there's no commercial breaks in the middle of each program (as opposed to the 15 seconds of DVR skipping that I have to do on other channels), that means there can be upwards of 10 minute of filler in between one program ending and the next starting. It's still advertising, it's just ads for the BBC, and the bit that hacks me off are that they're expensive, self indulgent arty-wankery ads paid for by my Goddamn license money. I'd rather watch a test card than a bunch of CGI fairies, thanks all the same.

Re:It's not the paywall that's failed (1)

Pelekophori (1045104) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925026)

We in the UK pay for the BBC willingly because it is worth the price

Don't presume to speak for all of us in the UK. You might pay for the BBC willingly, but I'd rather not if I had a choice. However I'm coerced into doing so even if I just want to watch their competitors.

The BBC's latest theory is that I am obliged to pay them a license fee if I merely watch a video on my PC which is being streamed live (by any broadcaster/website) because that is covered by the 1949 act which established the license fee. They haven't tried to enforce that one yet but they are positioning themselves to maintain their rentseeking position if/when the traditional broadcast TV audience declines even more significantly.

Re:It's not the paywall that's failed (1)

JackDW (904211) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925194)

Ah, but plenty of people in the UK pay for Sky TV. It isn't cheap, and it's "more crap from a Murdoch company", but many think it's worth it. Look for satellite dishes on houses as you travel through the UK; they're very common. Although you can get free to air programmes via satellite, strangely the dish design is almost always the sort "given away" for "free" with a Sky TV receiver (and minimum subscription).

So it's not as if charging for "Murdoch crap" is always doomed to fail. Murdoch has done very well out of charging for his "crap". It is so crap that many people will pay twice - once for the BBC, which they may never watch, and again for the Sky TV subscription. And most of the Sky channels have adverts, so (in a way) they're actually paying three times. Presumably this is the sort of response he is hoping for, and if the price is right, maybe it will even make money one day.

Disclaimer, lest I am mistaken for a shill. I don't have Sky TV. Had it once, was poor value for money. I'm thinking of dropping the TV licence too, same reason.

History repeating (5, Interesting)

Wowsers (1151731) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924758)

The Times / Sunday Times used to have a paid archive on CD-ROM circa 1992. On the internet, there were no articles over about a week old IIRC, the articles went into those CD-ROM archives. There was no great demand for that either, so the whole concept of charging got ditched and they got advertisers to relaunch a free expanded website.

I wonder that now that it's a paid for website, how the advertisers feel about the massive drop in people being able to view their ads (assuming you're not crunching the ads with plug-ins for the likes of Firefox).

Totally Unexpected Of The Day (5, Insightful)

Crypto Gnome (651401) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924772)

In other news - water is (usually) wet, deserts are (usually) dry, and The TaxMan Cometh!

The world is FULL of idiots.

Even rich ones.

Lemme give the man a (free, even) clue: On the one side, he wants to *get paid* for all the Free News his "papers" are putting onto "the web". On the other hand he completely ignores all the FREE EYEBALLS that search engines like Google bring to his website.

While incessantly whining about people who 'want something for nothing', what he actually does is treat "free eyeball traffic" as being "worth nothing". Small Wonder His Website No Longer Gets Eyeballs.

Murdock: HEY GOOGLE, STOP SENDING EYEBALLS TO MY WEBSITE without paying me for my content
Google: You had me at "stop sending eyeballs to my website" - all you had to do was ask.

Re:Totally Unexpected Of The Day (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924906)

He is covered anyway via the Sky interests.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/mediatechnologyandtelecoms/media/7890816/Rupert-Murdoch-should-pay-3bn-more-for-Sky.html [telegraph.co.uk]
The net was just a toy when you have real closed pipes with real viewers 24/7.
Thinking back to the BBC's comedy KYTV :)
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/mediatechnologyandtelecoms/media/7890816/Rupert-Murdoch-should-pay-3bn-more-for-Sky.html [telegraph.co.uk]

Re:Totally Unexpected Of The Day (4, Funny)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925204)

HOLY SHIT DUDE! Most people use one or two methods of emphasis, but you use *three*! You, sir, are a legend!

Re:Totally Unexpected Of The Day (1)

DMorritt (923396) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925240)

He will no doubt allow (even optimise for, like many other pay to view sites) the Google bots access to his content (if he doesn't already) to ensure decent search engine rankings though.

kinda: I'll do my best to get a good ranking, but don't send me traffic unless it pays for my stuff. Most other businesses are happy to pay for that privilege.

IMO, Google should penalise sites that allow their bots access to content, but serve different content to regular users, since this is *not* what people will be getting it is very misleading.

You Can't Cite Wolff on Anything Murdoch!! (5, Informative)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924802)

Oh, maaaan, Slashdot, this is so, so, wrong. Lookit:

Michael Wolff was paid a huge sum to write a bio of Murdoch a few years back, "The Man Who Owns the News." It ended up becoming the "Heaven's Gate" of publishing: Wolff was paid a million dollars in advance, and it sold horribly. As a result, Wolff became a pariah amongst publishers, and he has had a jones against Murdoch ever since. He started "Newser" -- an online news aggregation site, sort of a Drudge Report, but with pictures and short summaries written by semi-literate snarky hipster interns -- specifically as a response to the "old-fashioned" way that Murdoch did business. Wolff writes a column there daily; like, every third or fourth one is some screed, equal parts vitriolic and smug, predicting failure for everything Murdoch is involved with. If Murdoch issued a statement saying that "Gravity is a Good Thing," Wolff would find some way to either argue against it or poke fun at it.

Of course, it doesn't make matters any better that Wolff had an affair with one of those aforementioned interns a few years back that was made public -- and kept public, arguably far longer than an extra-marital affair involving a "C"-level journalist should have been -- by the Murdoch-owned NY Post. Wolff's wife (a divorce lawyer!! (he's obviously not the sharpest pen in the inkwell)) left him and took him to the cleaners.

Nobody who knows anything about Murdoch or NYC journalism takes anything Wolff has to say seriously when he's in "Murdoch mode." Kind of like asking the Sheriff of Nottingham to give a measured opinion about that guy "Robin Hood."

Re:You Can't Cite Wolff on Anything Murdoch!! (5, Funny)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924908)

Nobody who knows anything about Murdoch or NYC journalism takes anything Wolff has to say seriously when he's in "Murdoch mode." Kind of like asking the Sheriff of Nottingham to give a measured opinion about that guy "Robin Hood."

You compared Rupert Murdoch to Robin Hood?

Wow.

Re:You Can't Cite Wolff on Anything Murdoch!! (0, Troll)

osgeek (239988) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924952)

Of course he is. He takes dirt from rich Democrats and gives the scoop to poor Republicans.

Re:You Can't Cite Wolff on Anything Murdoch!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32925036)

It's a valid analogy! It's like asking that guy Skeletor about He-Man.

Re:You Can't Cite Wolff on Anything Murdoch!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32924932)

i'm sorry i found you interesting and informative through that all but then for some unfathomable reason you decided to spend all that kudos on likening rupert murdoch to robin hood...

really!?

Remember though... (2, Insightful)

Nick Fel (1320709) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924804)

...that they probably only need a fraction of their former readers to subscribe to make the same money they were making on advertising. I doubt literally 'nobody' has subscribed and I think it's going to take a bit longer to see if they've hit the magic number where they match/surpass their previous earnings.

Re:Remember though... (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924910)

The Times (£1 / £2) has a circulation of approximately 502,436 (March 2010).
The Metro (a free newspaper distributed *by itself* only in major towns and supported completely by advertising) has a circulation of 1,361,306 (October 2008, but representative of modern figures too). Three times as much, and that's only because every place that distributes them is normally empty by about 8:30am.

The Metro is free to read online, too. The Times costs £1 a day to read online.

I would say that points to The Times not using its advertising properly. It *might* make a lot more money now. I think, however, that it is missing out on a *huge* potential business that others are taking advantage of. And mostly their cost-savings from not having to have more than a single server running The Times website now means they are more profitable than they were before. Doesn't mean they *are* profitable on their online ventures at all. I think that, basically, it's a cost-cutting measure because they don't know how to exploit the web and want to stay in the dead-tree game forever. Shame that the rest of the world won't see it that way.

Lower prices (1)

barista (587936) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924832)

Maybe if he lowered the prices, he might get more customers. Even though I'm in the US, I've read timesonline on occasion, but the four dollars a week is a bit too much.

Inevitable Future (2, Insightful)

smitty777 (1612557) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924858)

So I'm expecting the usual reaction from the Slashdot audience cheering the gloriously free nature of information on the net and our ability to stick it to the man. And don't get me wrong, I'm a (free) news junkie myself. But how sustainable is the current paradigm? . I'm asking a sincere question, as the journalists really do have to get paid eventually. Advertisers? Probably not with the click rates the way they are nowadays. I don't see any any alternative to Murdoch's vision - other than some of the micropayment schemes that have been proposed. As the media outlets adjust to the new world and figure out ways to regulate, it's hard to see how this vision is anything but inevitable.

Re:Inevitable Future (2, Interesting)

MalHavoc (590724) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924944)

I'm also wondering what people would consider something they'd pay for. For me, a physical paper is not about the convenience (lugging a folded wad of paper with me is not convenient), it's about the ritual in the morning. But I'm only willing to go through that ritual, the act of sitting down with a paper and a cup of coffee, on mornings where I can enjoy it.

So, is the other side, the electronic side, something we'd pay for if it had a difference convenience factor? Are people less included to subscribe to whole electronic papers, but perhaps more inclined to pay for specific columnists, photographers, or sections of papers? For example, as someone who lives in Eastern Canada, I'm not really interested in the fact that the Globe and Mail does restaurant reviews of places in Toronto. But, if there was customizable content, maybe I'd pay for that instead.

Then again, I can get decent local coverage via the CBC's New Brunswick [cbc.ca] section, and that's free.

Like the parent, I agree that journalists and photographers need to get paid by someone. But even if you lived off of freely submitted content, you'd have to pay to maintain the infrastructure for your electronic version. As a FOSS developer, I'd love to be able to ask my grocery store to let me eat for free because I give away what I do :)

Re:Inevitable Future (1)

smitty777 (1612557) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925136)

Good points! In fact, it was the assumption of the demise of the hard-copy newspaper that triggered the original post. Sorry, pal - I'm reasonable certain that you'll have to change your morning routine in the near future. Physical media companies are shutting down in droves, and the survivors will be those that can adjust somehow.

I believe part of that adjustment is in the development of an e-commerce infrastructure and the increasing pervasiveness of technology. Once the physical (in the form of permanent VR contact lenses or whatever) and the economic convenience is in place (in the form of automatic micropayments), I don't think folks will give it another thought. It's like the evolution of the phone - from practically free party lines and local calls to the glutted cell phone plans we have today. They are reeling us in by increments.

Re:Inevitable Future (1)

osgeek (239988) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925012)

The news will be just fine with advertising. Sure, print newspapers that just take AP feeds and provide very little added value will continue to be in trouble, but does anyone see a decline in the amount or quality of news?

If anything I think that the trend has been toward a dramatic increase in availability of good mainstream news since the advent of the Internet. Additionally, lots of niche information that would have been available only through subscriptions to Scientific American or other more specialized publications is available easily and for free.

Then, for very well-reported and unique niche information like you get through The Wall Street Journal, Consumer Reports, and the Economist -- paywalls seem to be working quite well.

Re:Inevitable Future (1)

williamhb (758070) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925048)

So I'm expecting the usual reaction from the Slashdot audience cheering the gloriously free nature of information on the net and our ability to stick it to the man. And don't get me wrong, I'm a (free) news junkie myself. But how sustainable is the current paradigm? . I'm asking a sincere question, as the journalists really do have to get paid eventually. Advertisers? Probably not with the click rates the way they are nowadays. I don't see any any alternative to Murdoch's vision - other than some of the micropayment schemes that have been proposed. As the media outlets adjust to the new world and figure out ways to regulate, it's hard to see how this vision is anything but inevitable.

The most likely alternative is that the newspaper ditches the online edition completely and focuses on mobiles, iPads, Kindles, and the like for its electronic delivery, where there is a healthy and rapidly growing market in paid-for content, and which are probably more relevant to the kinds of customers who buy newspapers anyway (commuters reading on the train, etc). The strategy they are not going to do is decide "oh well, since the pay-wall doesn't work we should just make it free and pour millions of pounds a year into a website we can't make any money from". Murdoch doesn't stick with sacred cows like "all newspapers must have a Web edition". He was the media baron that moved Fleet Street out of Fleet Street. And since timesonline.co.uk only had a small market share anyway (vs the print newspaper's dominance of the broadsheet market) I doubt he thinks timesonline would be a big loss anyway.

Re:Inevitable Future (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925084)

As the media outlets adjust to the new world and figure out ways to regulate, it's hard to see how this vision is anything but inevitable.

It cannot be. There's a massive logic gap.

If it is possible -- and it is -- for a TV network to raise billions in advertising dollars, even with a tiny market-share for some shows (comparable to the readership of a large newspaper), then it MUST be possible to gain enough revenue from advertising to sustain a newspaper. A newspaper has far far far less overheads than a TV channel.

Either TV advertising is VASTLY overrated (and it must be, to some degree at least). Or content providers and advertisers are VASTLY misunderstanding Internet advertising. Or likely -- a combination of both.

If you can fund shows that cost a million plus dollars per episode, reaching around 5 million people, then you can DEFINITELY fund a national newspaper with 3 centuries of branding. If you can fund a local radio station with advertising you can do that for a local newspaper too.

Especially since: there's no click-through on TV ads, most people either Tivo out the ads, get up and do something else, or change channel temporarily.

The problem is that newspapers have never understood the net, and the potential for advertising revenue is completely untapped. Advertisers don't understand the internet either. If they did, there wouldn't be flash ads, and measured click-through rates, and it would be much easier for small businesses to get ads online.

Re:Inevitable Future (1)

smitty777 (1612557) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925212)

No logic gap, my friend. IMHO, there is a fundamental difference between television and website advertising. I've done a number of eyetracking studies on websites that show how routinely and effectively the users completely tune out web advertising. Since television advertising is presented serially (it's the only thing you *can* look at), the user has no choice but to view it. Unless you have TIVO, in which case you're paying through that service. I do agree that the owners recoup lots with the low overhead of the web content though.

So if the advertisers don't understand the net, what do you propose as an alternative?

Re:Inevitable Future (1)

Totenglocke (1291680) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925200)

But how sustainable is the current paradigm? . I'm asking a sincere question, as the journalists really do have to get paid eventually.

The problem is that right now, there are too many newspapers and too many "journalists". The overwhelming majority of news is the same, regardless of which reporter writes it or which paper / news site you get it from. The ones that actually offer something more than just the same news 1,000 other people are offering will stay in business and many of the other papers that have nothing unique will close. As the ones who don't offer anything unique shut down, more people will go to the sources offering something worthwhile, which means more ad revenue for them.

If you want a very easy and relevant example, read slashdot, lifehacker, gizmodo, and engadget - 95% of the articles are identical on each site, so if one site starts charging, people will just move to one of the others (who will then get more ad revenue).

This explains a lot (3, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924862)

Remember Murdoch constantly advocating that other publications go for a paywall. This is why: if he puts things behind a paywall, then he'll be creamed in the marketplace, but if everyone does it then everyone will be forced to pay somebody, thus creating a market for Internet news.

Of course, he's being an idiot, because there's this little organization called the BBC which provides very good coverage and is publicly controlled.

Re:This explains a lot (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925034)

Murdoch has friends in high places and campaigns to privatise or hobble the BBC .... ...nothing is free ...a rival is something to crush

I had a look, I can see why the uptake is slow (1)

qwerty8ytrewq (1726472) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924866)

The front page is ok, but clicking a few links resulted in a weird glitch-style reload. After a few goes, a login page came up, with a redirect to the subscription page. 2 quid a week is an OK price, but I agree with petes POV. The biz model is tanking, not the paywall.

Why pay for it? (1)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924882)

I'm not paying for newspapers as it is - I can find a dozen abandonned editions of the day of any given local paper in the subway and in food courts on any day of the week. Why would I pay for the web version of something I already get for free?

Why journalism online is not worthy of cash (5, Interesting)

Robotron23 (832528) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924920)

If its one thing I've learned in a few years of being involved in the journalistic trade...it's that so many people in it are pigheaded to the point of doing themselves a lot of damage to their potential success and reputation. This is true from editors, to rank and file columnists...and new graduates convert alarmingly to this mentality with a dissapointing number of exceptions.

Murdoch aside, the overriding truth of modern journalist both here in the UK and in the US is that quantity rules over quality. That's why every Saturday and Sunday we Britons cannot buy a 'quality broadsheet' without having to acquire a book's worth of text in supplements along with the actual newspaper itself. That one has to shell over £1.20 or so for a compendium of tripe that you mostly won't get around to reading is why journalism is failing.

Simply put there are too many people employed who may have begun with some talent, but have lapsed into a state of passive drudgery writing filler columns about inane topics most readers could not care less about. You can actually tell with a lot of them that the author wasn't really thinking as he or she typed it out. In short the 'news' of newspaper is absent in a woefully high proportion; yes there's room for editorials and quirky opinion pieces...but the proportions are way off right now.

This is true of all Murdoch rags, most starkly The Times which was a pioneer of supplements in the 1990s. Once, decades ago (pre-Murdoch), the Times led some of the most intriguing investigative departments in journalistic history - they spent months to break a story that would spread across what? Four pages or so of print? This level of work for that amount of journalism is unheard of today - that's because today it's all about cheap, easy stories that can be summed up mostly as: 'Churnalism' (a term coined by Guardian journo Nick Davies) . It began in earnest in the 1980s with Andrew Neil's Times, and the trend away from reportage which took effort, talent, dedication and downright brilliance to pull off is almost entirely absent in The Times of 2010.

There is hope for the profession, as wracked by disease as it is; online journalism has some good offerings where journalists actually leave the office and do some old school reporting. That Murdoch and a few others see their awful, soulless content as worthy of paying for online rather than just going for what's worked since the beginning (advertisements) is telling of their wrongheaded approach which led so many publications to become so degraded in quality.

its a changing of the guard (3, Interesting)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#32924922)

in charge of the movie, music, television, book, and print media industries, you have these guys who clawed their way to the top in an era of typewriters and cassette tapes and celluloid and NTSC and stopping the presses. the golden age of media

which the internet has killed

but these guys have invested decades of their lives in a status quo which went **POOF**, just when they get the point where they are at the helm

naturally, they are bitter. they've been screwed by history. they call it disruptive technology for a reason

so the rest of us will have to suffer awhile while these media dinosaurs hem and haw and throw chairs and grow purple faced and otherwise rage against the dying if the light. and then they're dead, and then those working in the media trenches now with a firm grasp of what the internet actually means will finally move into power, and maybe we can put all of this clashing of the eras behind us, and all these absolutely moronic laws and policies we keep making fun of here on slashdot, for good reason

one can hope, anyways

Is failure a success? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32924996)

Murdoch's not stupid, even if he does want to fight the tide. The question is, does he genuinely want to get money from this venture or does he want a "failure" to demonstrate the need for the government (who are indebted to him for supporting them in the election and stabbing the previous governing party in the back) to lend him a hand. I think it's quite reasonable to assume that he was advised that this would be a commercial failure and decided, eyes open, that that was exactly what he wanted to advance his lobbying position.

He's in it for the very long term... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32925002)

Murdoch's in it for the very long term. He did the same thing with TV, lost stupid amounts of money over a decade, but eventually his proprietary broadcasting networks became the status quo. He's got a virtual monopoly on TV sports coverage in many countries, so there's very little option other than to pay over the odds for his TV coverage.

The troubling thing is he indirectly owns one of the bigger ISPs in the UK, and I suggest it will be part of some long term strategy to make his part of the web more locked down.

I changed newspaper (2, Interesting)

Alain Williams (2972) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925042)

Here is a letter that I wrote to the Editor of the Times a few weeks ago. Since then I have bought The Guardian/Observer.

=======
I do not often visit The Times web site, I prefer the paper version. I do mainly if I want to share an article with a friend or few, some item of common interest. Something that has the side effect of introducing non Times readers to The Times.

I notice that I can no longer do that, it will cost me & my friends to be able to share such things. As a result, after 35 years, I will change newspaper; I will no longer buy your paper copy - probably going for the Guardian or Independent.

This paywall is a bad idea, the only way that I can adapt to it is to change which newspaper I read. Your foolish action will cost you. I give you permission to email me (once) when you reverse this policy; however I expect that, by then, I will be happy with my new newspaper.

Regards
=======

Re:I changed newspaper (2, Funny)

ZeroExistenZ (721849) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925174)

I do not often visit The Times web site, I prefer the paper version. I do mainly if I want to share an article with a friend or few, some item of common interest. Something that has the side effect of introducing non Times readers to The Times.

I notice that I can no longer do that, it will cost me & my friends to be able to share such things. As a result, after 35 years, I will change newspaper; I will no longer buy your paper copy - probably going for the Guardian or Independent.

This paywall is a bad idea, the only way that I can adapt to it is to change which newspaper I read. Your foolish action will cost you. I give you permission to email me (once) when you reverse this policy; however I expect that, by then, I will be happy with my new newspaper.

Regards

Best sir,

We are crying here at HQ, as you were one of these loyal long lasting clients we were boasting about. Irma overhere, is devistated; she used to ask every week to handmail out your paper personally but now feels rejected and just was going around with a card to contratulate you on your 35th year of subscription with us. She cancelled the cake-order with your name on it.

We hope your new meaningful relationship with another paper will bring your more satisfaction, while we try to calm Irma down and try to fix our strategy with the purpose to remain profitable in a digital age. Please accept our sincere appologies of the actions of executive management, and accept these scissors to share your news articles with us.

Your friends,
The Times

they can identify non-registered users? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32925102)

but subscribers to the paper itself — who have free access to the site — are not going beyond the registration page

Now that's interesting. How do they know that.

And this quote (sorry, I did RTFA) is interesting, because I hadn't thought of it that way:

Why would [independent publishers] talk to the Times or the Sunday Times if they are behind a paywall? Who can see it? I can't even share a link and they aren't on search. It’s as though their writers don't exist anymore.

It's sad, though. I really don't see a bright future for high-quality journalism on the Internet -- not that I'm saying anything about the quality of said papers. Writers want to be read, readers want to read, but the Internet removes both the need and opportunities for middle-men. And I don't think that ad revenue alone is enough to finance a documentary or an in-depth story.

Maybe the LWN approach is the way to go (pay-walling stories for a limited amount of time). Other than that, I think the value of news over the Internet will be restricted to shallow articles and first-person publications.

It's not about money. It's about ease-of-use. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32925104)

Any barrier, free or paid, between the consumer and the content will move consumers to others. If paid contact would be easier to access than free contact, many would be happy to pay.

This is why most DRM schemes have failed, except for iTunes, which makes buying music easier to do than download MP3's for free.

What a bug ridden site for a source (2, Interesting)

Thorfinn.au (1140205) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925140)

The web site at newser.com call in at least 21 other sites according to No_Script and Ghostery shows at least 5 trackers as well.

beer (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925148)

It's It's like going to one of those beer festivals where all the breweries are giving away free samples of their beer and setting up your booth as the only one that charges money simply because you think yours is so much better. I guess no one will ever find out.

Schadenfreude (4, Interesting)

xednieht (1117791) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925182)

As much as I love it when a billionaire faceplants, I would suggest that free-forever is not a sustainable business model either - lest those who produce the content are given free food, clothing and shelter.

Edison tried 3,000 times before he got it down, my guess is that Murdoch and his team are no less determined. One good thing to remember is that the more money he earns, the more money you could potentially earn.

i get my news the traditional way (4, Funny)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925260)

i listen to the cantankerous old folks bitch about it at a local tavern

Murdoch will change his strategy (2, Interesting)

zerofoo (262795) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925270)

The flaw in Murdoch's strategy is that to effectively charge for something that everyone else is giving away for free, you need to convince all the other "free guys" to charge for their stuff.

This works in industries where the barriers to entry are high, but on the web, anyone can be a journalist - hell, you don't even need to know how to operate a web server any more - all you need is a hosted wordpress account and you are off to the races.

That's where Murdoch will focus his energies next - raising the barriers to entry. I can easily see this slimeball "partnering" with ISPs to restrict access to free sites. Unless we have clear regulator enforced net neutrality laws, Murdoch and his types will restrict our right to free press and force all of us to pay for his "news".

-ted

Murdoch forgot one thing: (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32925276)

Murdoch forgot one thing: his customers are cheap cunts. At least, if the US followers of his empire are any indication.

Problem is the business model (4, Interesting)

Budenny (888916) | more than 3 years ago | (#32925320)

News has a model of the world in which you buy and read one paper, as you did back in the days when there were only paper editions. The reason you only bought one paper is that as papers rose in price, it got too expensive to buy all of them. So back then, unless you were a business person who really needed them all, you would buy one and read it. However when papers went online, all of a sudden people started reading the Guardian, Telegraph, Independent and Times, all of them.

Total newspaper readership therefore rose dramatically. The model had changed. We were now in a world of non-exclusive newspaper readership, where people find it natural to glance through all the broadsheets.

Rupert would now like to turn back the clock, and have all papers go behind the paywall. However, he fails to realize that if that world were to come about, total readership would fall. He would then only have those people who were prepared to restrict themselves to the Times.

It is not that people particularly want to get their content free. They will pay for it, if its distinctive and of value to them, as the FT, Economist, and WSJ show. What they do not want however is a model in which they subscribe to a paper as in the old days. So what happened when the Times went behind the paywall is that everyone deleted that bookmark but carried on as before reading Telegraph, Guardian and Independent. They don't really need the Times, as long as the market is using the model of non-exclusive readership.

This is the critical point that Rupert is failing to get. He is trying to operate a model of the past, in a world in which non-exclusive readership has become the norm. The effect of this is going to be to take the Times out of the running. It is no longer part of the broadsheets that you glance through online. People are not going to subscribe to just one, and in a world in which only one charges, they are going to carry on scanning through the others, without particularly missing the Times, which has nothing very distinctive to offer.

Historically, News has always had a problem thinking the content issue through. Consider the case of LineOne, many years ago. The argument then was, we have all this distinctive content that we will use to force people to subscribe to our Internet Access service because that is the only way we will allow access to it. They will pay a premium for the access in order to get the content. In those days the contrary argument was made: if the content is so valuable, just sell it to anyone, regardless of who they get their access from. At which those in charge of the content rightly flinched, and admitted that it was unsaleable.

OK, then, what made them think it was saleable at a premium when bundled with access? And as it turned out, it was not, and the access business was sold off to Tiscali and the Times went online free.

They have been obsessed with the model of Sky, where they got exclusive rights, used those to sell dishes and subscriptions. But it depends on having 'must have' content. What Rupert is refusing to accept right now is that, except in the case of the WSJ, he has no 'must have' content. None. Columnists? Who cares?

As the article says, the Times has simply vanished from online. No-one links to it, no-one quotes it, as far as can be seen no-one subscribes to it. It has vanished. Give it another few months, and the effect will be the same as if it had no online presence.

Now ask yourself: if someone had gone to Rupert six months ago, and proposed closing down their web presence, would he have agreed? It would probably have been a short meeting, and a very blunt one. But that is what, probably without in the least intending to, he has now done.

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