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Murdoch's UK Paywall a Miserable Failure 428

Posted by timothy
from the sorry-rupert dept.
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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Murdoch's UK Paywall a Miserable Failure

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  • Duh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by guruevi (827432) <evi AT smokingcube DOT be> on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:04AM (#32924706) Homepage

    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... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AnonymousClown (1788472) on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:11AM (#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.
      • by sznupi (719324)

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

        • Re:Duh... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:33AM (#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... (Score:5, Informative)

            by link-error (143838) on Friday July 16, 2010 @08:53AM (#32925518)
            If you want free real-time access to stock pricing information, just throw a little money into a ScotTrade account. You don't even have to actually buy anything and they pay you interest on the money as well.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by bmacs27 (1314285)
            I would say it has more to do with the quality of their reporting, and their branded unique perspectives (unapologetically pro free market). You can get real time data on Google, and if that isn't real time enough, then you are a trader and need a real trading solution. In fact, more likely you are a computer sitting on the floor of the exchange.

            Particularly with the Economist, it has long established itself as trusted, factual, and global reporting. They've historically been able to charge much more
        • Re:Duh... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Friday July 16, 2010 @08:00AM (#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... (Score:5, Informative)

            by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Friday July 16, 2010 @09:04AM (#32925626)

            Agreed. The "Wall Street Journal" has morphed into "Wall Street People Magazine" and useful to line my cat litter box and stuff packages containing fragile items but not much more. FT is still tolerable if you want information about the economy, but don't want to have ultraconservative delusional thinking shoved down your throat as "Investor's Business Daily" does.

      • Re:Duh... (Score:4, Funny)

        by Eunuchswear (210685) on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:30AM (#32924854) Journal

        the Financial Times & Economist (same company)

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

      • Re:Duh... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by aCC (10513) * on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:34AM (#32924876) Homepage

        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... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Tridus (79566) on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:36AM (#32924896) Homepage

          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: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            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: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Vintermann (400722)

          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... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by deoxyribonucleose (993319) on Friday July 16, 2010 @08:09AM (#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: (Score:3, Informative)

              by joshsnow (551754)
              They also fell heads-over-heel for Obama.
              That's not quite accurate. They strongly supported John McCain until it became obvious that Palin was sinking his ship. Their support for Obama has always been critical and muted.
          • Re:Duh... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by mcelrath (8027) on Friday July 16, 2010 @08:27AM (#32925278) Homepage
            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: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Blymie (231220)

            Sure, but if you are left/centrist, this is why you should read them. (re: right wing political views)

            I always make sure to read articles / magazines that make me angry. Otherwise, I will insulate myself, and risk becoming religious about my position. I'm more centrist, and tend to read articles from both ends of the political spectrum.

            I've read The Economist for a while, and find that yes -- they do indeed tend to lean right. However, they have many articles that do not, and I've found that they do tend

          • Re:Duh... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Experiment 626 (698257) on Friday July 16, 2010 @10:00AM (#32926294)

            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?).

            How is that "very far right"? At the time it began, the Iraq war had widespread favor across the political spectrum, with most of the Senate Democrats voting in favor of it, including the oh-so-very-far-right Hilary Clinton. Belief in WMD was similarly pervasive, since the intelligence community was saying they were there, and no evidence had come out yet to suggest this analysis was incorrect.

            • Re:Duh... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Bemopolis (698691) on Friday July 16, 2010 @11:31AM (#32927614)
              Senate Democrats did not vote for the Iraq War because they believed in it. They voted for it to avoid looking like spineless cowards. Which, in the end, means that they *are* spineless cowards.

              Belief in WMD was similarly pervasive, since the intelligence community was saying they were there, and no evidence had come out yet to suggest this analysis was incorrect.

              Except for the testimony of the UN weapons inspectors, and Hussein Kamel, and Joe Wilson (the diplomat, not the "You lie!" jagoff). And those who noted that the first national security meeting of the Bush administration covered the possibility of invading Iraq, which might be coloring their kitchen-sink approach to justifying an invasion ("He tried to kill mah daddy!"). Oh, and the fact that the chief CIA witness had the codename "Curveball" ferchrissakes. But beisdes all of that, yes, no one doubted the word of the administration.

            • Re:Duh... (Score:4, Interesting)

              by bit9 (1702770) on Friday July 16, 2010 @12:19PM (#32928354)

              At the time it began, the Iraq war had widespread favor across the political spectrum, with most of the Senate Democrats voting in favor of it, including the oh-so-very-far-right Hilary Clinton. Belief in WMD was similarly pervasive, since the intelligence community was saying they were there, and no evidence had come out yet to suggest this analysis was incorrect.

              I'm not sure what part of the country you live in, but as I recall it, belief in WMD was anything but pervasive. I, along with numerous friends, acquaintances, family members, coworkers, etc, was absolutely appalled that we were actually going to invade Iraq based on such flimsy pretenses.

              Mind you, I'm not exactly a liberal pacifist who was concerned about unjustly attacking poor ol' Saddam - my concerns about the WMD evidence mostly stemmed from the fact that invading Iraq was bound to be a decade-long (or longer) quagmire, which would cost the lives of thousands of American soldiers, not to mention countless billions of taxpayer dollars. I just wanted to be assured that there was a damn good reason for going through with all of that.

              I kept asking the question, "Where's the hard evidence?". There never was any. All I ever saw was smoke and mirrors, lots of dog-and-pony shows with paper-thin wisps of "evidence", and "intelligence" reports that absolutely reeked of political spin and creative interpretation. Honestly, I probably would have found it more convincing if they'd just said that they'd consulted a witch-doctor who had divined the presence of WMDs in Iraq while in a peyote-induced trance.

              And mind you, I'm not someone you would generally consider a liberal, so it's not as if my experience was due to my own political leanings, nor those of my peers. I live in the Los Angeles area, and my friends, family, and coworkers are roughly an equal mix of liberals, conservatives, and apolitical types. Even among my conservative friends, there seemed to be some palpable concern that the WMD evidence was a bit flimsy. I'd hardly call that a pervasive belief. Then again, that was just my own experience. YMMV.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by rduke15 (721841)

              At the time it began, the Iraq war had widespread favor across the political spectrum, [...] . Belief in WMD was similarly pervasive

              It may be useful to point out that this was only in the US, as far as I know. Of course, the US perception is what's the most relevant and important, since they started the war, but it's still interesting to be aware that it was limited to the US and very few other countries.

              In continental Europe, the Iraq war had "widespread opposition across the political spectrum". And belief in WMD was definitely not "pervasive".

              On the radio, I heard people like the boss of the UN inspectors, and others, explaining that

            • Re:Duh... (Score:4, Interesting)

              by 10101001 10101001 (732688) on Friday July 16, 2010 @01:19PM (#32929304) Journal

              At the time it began, the Iraq war had widespread favor across the political spectrum, with most of the Senate Democrats voting in favor of it, including the oh-so-very-far-right Hilary Clinton.

              As been stated many times before, the US politically is pretty right leaning. This includes Hillary Clinton who, along with Joe Lieberman, was pushing for enforcing ESRB ratings as law [wikipedia.org] (in response to the Hot Coffee mod [wikipedia.org]). In comparison, a more liberal place like France seems more unwilling to rate anything R-rated (look at some popular 12 and over titles [imdb.com]).

              Belief in WMD was similarly pervasive, since the intelligence community was saying they were there, and no evidence had come out yet to suggest this analysis was incorrect.

              Two things. One, the intelligence community was saying that nuclear WMDs would take 5 to 10 years to develop, minimal even if Saddam had gotten uranium (look at Iran's difficulties in refining large quantities of uranium; consider that to go from natural Uranium (0.7% U-235) to nuclear fuel (3% U-235) requires a lot of work and a hell of a lot more work to get to nuclear weapon grade (97% U-235)). Two, the evidence was incredibly flimsy that Saddam had made or had components for chemical weapons (the last time Saddam had chemical weapons, the US and Europe sold him a good bit of the base components). Three, Hans Blix [cnn.com], one of the United Nations' top two weapons experts (and an inspector) said the evidence was shaky, at best. According to Scott Ritter [wikipedia.org] who was UN weapons inspector during most of the 90s, even though only perhaps 90-95% of all factories/weapons/etc, Iraq wasn't a significant threat with what remained. As much as it was consistently clear to Blix and others that Saddam wanted WMDs and repeatedly tried to test the UN to see if he could wiggle in a way to import components and construct WMDs, it was also clear that Saddam kept backing down because he realized that the reprisal for actually pushing the UN that far wouldn't actually work.

              In short, the very people who'd actually been in Iraq for years on the ground and who had personally dealt with the oversight of such things--ie, the people one probably should really be listening to if one cared about the facts and the truth--were specifically stating before the Iraq War that the war was not justified based on WMDs. Meanwhile, the CIA was well on its way towards overthrowing Saddam; and incidentally, the CIA is precisely where all this questionable intelligence was coming from.

              Btw, because I was actually listening to Hans Blix before the Iraq War, I was against it before it started. I was also quite aware, with the progressive drum beating as the war start date approached that the people in charge had little interest in actually reviewing the facts since they'd settled on a train of thought and a course of action (consider the Bush years and Global Warming and how long it took for even the smallest acknowledgment that "the evidence is still unclear" was some rather clear bullshit). As for the Senate Democrats who are moderate or even left, most acted like pitiful, fearful politicians. It was better to vote for a war blindly than to look "weak" on terrorism (remember the whole push for the Iraq-Al Quaeda connnection; that's why). Btw, perhaps that's the reason so many people voted for Obama, since he never voted for the war and that made him, once the war was unpopular, look steadfast and strong (and politically lucky, since he wasn't in the Senate until 2005); but, I digress.

              In double short, the only people who believed in the WMDs were (a) those in power (which I'd argue were rather far righ

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by the_womble (580291)

              Given that The Economist is a British publication and most people in Britain opposed the Iraq war I think does make it very right wing.

          • Re:Duh... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by js_sebastian (946118) on Friday July 16, 2010 @10:24AM (#32926620)

            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?).

            I wouldn't call the economist far right... they are in favor of legalization of drugs, for instance, and are generally against all forms of prohibitionism. I think they are quite left-wing on many social issues (in favor of civil liberties, etc), and a bit right wing on economy (as in strongly free market oriented).

        • Re:Duh... (Score:5, Funny)

          by AmiMoJo (196126) <{ten.3dlrow} {ta} {ojom}> on Friday July 16, 2010 @08:16AM (#32925178) Homepage

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

          1. Tits

        • Re:Duh... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Richard W.M. Jones (591125) <rich@anne[ ].org ['xia' in gap]> on Friday July 16, 2010 @04:54PM (#32932754) Homepage

          I'm a subscriber to the Economist too, but the reason I think it works is their content is not just warmed-over daily news. It's a collection of well-researched, unique and interesting weekly essays. Murdoch is never going to be able to do the same thing with the Times.

          Rich.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        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
      • Niche markets (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Comboman (895500) on Friday July 16, 2010 @09:02AM (#32925602)

        There must be a couple of more exceptions

        Consumer Reports [consumerreports.org] is another periodical website that uses the subscription model (though in that case it is because they don't accept advertising so their reviews can be truly independent). What they have in common with WSJ, Economist and various scientific/medical journals is that they offer highly specialized data to a niche market that is willing to pay a premium for it. General interest newspapers and magazines do not fall into that category which is why the advertising-based model works much better for them.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by AK Marc (707885)
          because they don't accept advertising so their reviews can be truly independent

          Independent, but not unbiased. They have at least one advertiser - themselves. After the publicity from Suzuki, they purposefully made the next one tip, violating every stated testing standard they had and even inventing new ones in order to make cars tip. And, of course, when they succeed, they issue press releases and paste it on the cover and such. Try reading one of their articles on, say, cereal (I read only because it
      • WSJ (Score:3, Informative)

        by Elfich47 (703900)
        It appears that the quality of the WSJ reporting has declined since Murdoch took over. Most of the serious economists that want hard data and serious analysis have fled the WSJ and moved to the FT. The reason is simple: The WSJ is no longer providing the material that it used to. On the other hand I think the Bancroft Family took the best advice for the stock market when selling the paper: Buy Low, Sell High.
    • Re:Duh... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:40AM (#32924918) Homepage Journal

      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: (Score:3, Informative)

        by geekoid (135745)

        "it was a labor of love.

        Yes, I'm sure the act there was no good advertising method had nothing to do with that~

        I also remember it was :
        A) NO ads, or;
        B) screaming op up adds, and plenty of them. Often opening windows i pt in size or outside the screen area of a computer.

        Before that, well it wasn't much to look at.

    • by openfrog (897716) on Friday July 16, 2010 @08:15AM (#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: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Mandrel (765308)

        So I am one of the very few who got past the registration page.

        Were there ads? If so, static or animated?

  • Oppinions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:08AM (#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.

  • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:08AM (#32924716) Homepage

    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?

    • by ZeroExistenZ (721849) on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:28AM (#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.

  • still early days (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jaymz2k4 (790806) <jaymz@jay[ ]eu ['mz.' in gap]> on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:09AM (#32924724) Homepage
    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.
    • by hedwards (940851) on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:29AM (#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.
      • by nyctopterus (717502) on Friday July 16, 2010 @08:16AM (#32925172) Homepage

        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 (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ErikTheRed (162431) on Friday July 16, 2010 @11:51AM (#32927932) Homepage

        I actually took a "free trial" of the web site (hey, I like Jeremy Clarkson's columns), and there's a lot more to it than the paywall. They also did a complete site redesign, and it's hideous - I couldn't find a damned thing on the new site, and actually reading stories involved some bizarre CSS windowing. The entire site is basically a CSS version of "Flashturbation" (CSSturbation?) - a bunch of developers showing off how technically clever they are in the process of making a crap product.

        That being said, £1 a week would be much too high, even if the site didn't suck sweaty rhino ass.... £1 pound a day is flat-out insane.

    • by dwandy (907337) on Friday July 16, 2010 @08:15AM (#32925166) Homepage Journal

      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.

      • by MrSteveSD (801820) on Friday July 16, 2010 @05:52PM (#32933308)
        The other point is that many governments like to fund their own state news outlets. There are many of these with perhaps the BBC being the most famous. Even if all the private news outlets disappear, people will just fall back onto the BBC, Russia Today etc. When it comes to certain news stories they like to peddle their own propaganda of course, but that is the case with most of the media anyway.
  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:09AM (#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.
    • by myocardialinfarction (1606123) on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:24AM (#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.
      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:42AM (#32924928) Journal
        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.
  • History repeating (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Wowsers (1151731) on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:16AM (#32924758) Journal

    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).

  • by Crypto Gnome (651401) on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:18AM (#32924772) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:23AM (#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."

  • Remember though... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Nick Fel (1320709)
    ...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.
  • 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 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by smitty777 (1612557) on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:31AM (#32924858) Journal

    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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mcgrew (92797) *

      But how sustainable is the current paradigm?

      As sustainable as it's always been. The Illinois Times [illinoistimes.com] survives, makes a profit, and pays its staff on advertising alone. Even its paper version is free, and its yearly "Best of" poll winners all proudly have their IT "Best Of" awards displayed on their walls, even higher class joints like Saputo's and D'Arcy's.

      Free sells, but only if it's quality. If your content sucks or your ads are intrusive, your newspaper will die.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:32AM (#32924862) Homepage

    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.

  • by Robotron23 (832528) on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:40AM (#32924920) Homepage

    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.

  • 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

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:51AM (#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.

  • by ctrl-alt-canc (977108) on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:57AM (#32925028)

    Was George W. Bush [bbc.co.uk] involved into the project ?!?

  • I changed newspaper (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:59AM (#32925042) Homepage
    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: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ZeroExistenZ (721849)

      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

  • Schadenfreude (Score:4, Interesting)

    by xednieht (1117791) on Friday July 16, 2010 @08:17AM (#32925182) Homepage
    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.
  • by FudRucker (866063) on Friday July 16, 2010 @08:26AM (#32925260)
    i listen to the cantankerous old folks bitch about it at a local tavern
  • by zerofoo (262795) on Friday July 16, 2010 @08:27AM (#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

  • by Budenny (888916) on Friday July 16, 2010 @08:35AM (#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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Old97 (1341297)
      I agree with what you've written. I'd add a couple of more observations:

      1) Get the order right - pillage before you burn. Newspapers and magazines have "de-contented" over the years to save money. That reduced the real and perceived value of their products. They went on-line with this "de-contented" version and we got used to it. Then they erected the paywall. Now, I would have paid for their product if I thought it was the same product it was before all the cost cutting, but I don't really value what

  • by metamatic (202216) on Friday July 16, 2010 @08:35AM (#32925324) Homepage Journal

    Dramatically fewer people reading Murdoch's crap, and he's still not making any money.

    Looks like success from where I'm sitting.

  • The Times has put into place its new paywall system, to keep readers, search engines and other criminals from using it to download cars, to the sound of champagne corks popping at the Guardian, Telegraph and BBC.

    The newspaper will now require payment of £1 a day for its unique and high-quality editorial viewpoints, as taken from the Sun and rewritten in big words. The site also blocks anyone under 18 from registering, in order to keep the paper's quality demographic aging nicely.

    "I firmly support this move," said everyday citizen on the street and certainly not Guardian editor at all Alan Rusbridger. "In fact, it should be ten pounds a day. Ten pounds a story. Then people will really see it as high-quality merchandise and not rewritten press releases and news feeds with Mr Murdoch dictating the editorial page."

    "It's ours," said James Murdoch, frothing slightly. "You thieving bastards steal our copyright every time you save a copy into your heads! Well, we'll fix your little wagon. It's a pound a day plus a pound a copy behind your eyes plus a pound a copy you talk about with anyone else plus a pound a copy just fucking because. It's for me and Dad and you can just fuck off. And when we buy the BBC we won't let you watch that either. Arseholes."

    "OK, the champagne is Thunderbird Sparkling," said Mr Rusbridger. "Times are tough, you know. But I have complete faith we're on the right path and the Times is doomed. I told ’em, I told ’em. Spare fiddy pee for a Polly Toynbee column? God bless you, sir!"

    "I am one hundred percent behind paying for quality journalism," said free culture activist Hiram Nerdboy, 17. "That's why I just gave fifty quid to Wikileaks."

    Illustration: Rupert Murdoch with the precioussssssssss. [newstechnica.com]

  • by rapiddescent (572442) on Friday July 16, 2010 @09:10AM (#32925692)

    HitWise have graphs [hitwise.com] that show the decline in market share following the paywall implementation. It shows that The Telegraph [telegraph.co.uk] (also a slightly right of centre broadsheet) picked up traffic as the Times declined.

    What is interesting is that a week after the paywall, there were still users navigating to the website to be confronted with the paywall page - probably because they were being linked to the site from other sites or were using book marks. As they realise that The Times is paywalled, they are not going back.

  • by RevWaldo (1186281) on Friday July 16, 2010 @09:38AM (#32926050)
    If the site was smartly built the paper subscribers shouldn't have to go through a registration process at all.

    Type in your choice of unique identifier - subscriber number off the label, home phone number, OR credit card number.

    "We found a matching subscription - is this you? Yes/No"

    Slap a cookie on the browser - done. No password required.

    Yes, someone could fake their way in using just this info, but compared to people not using the site AT ALL it's a minimal concern. If there's a feature on the site that involve some one-off charges THEN you hit the user up for harder verification. Otherwise, keep it simple.

    .
  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Friday July 16, 2010 @09:48AM (#32926146) Homepage
    If they treat me like the purchaser as opposed to their seed grain.

    That means:

    1. NO ADVERTISING. If you advertise, particularly the annoying, video and sound (with those extra annoying pop-up - or worse pop-out crap), your customers are the advertisers and my attention is what you are selling. Why should I have to pay you so that you can IRRITATE and ANNOY me by selling MY attention? NO. Adverising is a great, perfectly fine way to pay for FREE content. It is NOT an acceptable way to make some extra money on top of what you charge me.

    2. NO TRACKING ME. Again, if I am paying you for a service, that means I don't want you to invade myprivacy. You don't track what I read or when. No record keeping of anything I do. You are allowed to count how many people click on a story, but not whether the same person clicks on story X as also clicks on story Y.

    3. Video and sound should all be accompanied by printed summaries. Deaf people (and blind people using text-to speech converter programs) are important customers too and some of us don't like the video - it takes too much time, is lazy, and if I wanted that I would turn on the TV.

    4. Better, in depth writing that does not accept stupid statements. Don't just accept statements, VERIFY them. (i.e. treat each of the people you quote the way Politifact.org does and when they give numbers make sure they are telling the truth.) When someone says something really stupid like "this snow storm in the heart of winter disproves global warming", call them on it YOURSELF, don't simply get an opposing point of view.

    The Internet did not kill newspaper, a combination of poor writing and advertisers did (the advertisers would rather spend 5 cents to talk sell diapers to pregnant women than 10 cents to sell diapers to everyone). Those same forces rule the internet news market - as long as you let them. If you want to recreate the pay-news market, you need to avoid the problems that killed the newspaper.

  • by Elfich47 (703900) on Friday July 16, 2010 @10:07AM (#32926382)
    Previously all the papers used the AP/Reuters because the AP covered issues the local paper couldn't. No one cared that everyone used the AP because people didn't read out of state newspapers.

    Now the model has shifted. Everyone can read anyone's newspapers, but everyone is annoyed that all you get from any "local" newspaper is the same AP feed (some who charge for it and some who do not). I can see that small papers dropping the AP feed because it isn't useful to them any more. The bandwidth cost to carry information that everyone else has isn't worth it. Then the paper becomes a "local paper" or a "niche paper" again that can justify charging for its content. It will be able to charge because it is covering things that are locally important that you can't get anywhere else.

    The AP on the other hand is going to have a problem: With all the small papers dropping them as a source of revenue, they will have to find another way to support themselves. I don't know what that is but they will have to scramble to get it done.
  • by myowntrueself (607117) on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:13PM (#32933954)

    Ok right at the top of this 'journalists' article:

    Will his paywall work is the biggest story in the media business, and it would be quite a journalistic coup to document the progress, or lack thereof, that's being made in trying to convince a skeptical world to shell out 2£ ($3) a week for what's heretofore been free.

    If this is the kind of crap that 'free' journalism produces I'd gladly pay for something written by someone who can actually construct readable sentences...

    This guy is a blogger who likes to think he is a journalist. Ehm... like most of them I guess...

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