Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Paying For The Times

Dominic Ponsford, of the Press Gazette, has written an interesting critique of The Times new website. I havem't got a clue if his points are valid as I haven't paid to access it. It's not that I can't, and it's not that I don't think News International haven't got a perfect right to charge for their content if they want to. But why, when I can get similar news content on various other sites, would I part with £60 (or is it £100?)?

And that's the question no one from The Times can quite answer. Much as I would like to be able to read the collected thoughts of Matthew Parris and Danny Finkelstein every week - and indeed share a critique of them with my readers - I just can't quite bring myself to extract my credit card from the moth eaten wallet in my pocket.

Still, it's their loss as well as mine, as it means they don't get any traffic from me any longer.

I shall be fascinated to see their webstats for their first month behind the paywall. I suspect they will be for uncomfortable viewing for both News International executives and Times journalists.

31 comments:

Nic said...

i've got access to the Times but i haven't paid money. i registered for free.

Simon said...

If you buy a times plus subscription to the physical paper you get times online for free. It's cheaper than buying the paper in a Newsagents.

darrenanderson said...

Utterly amazed by their decsion to charge for web access. Commercial suicide if you ask me. With the decline of printed news they are killing off any readers of their digital format.

WIll be amazed to hear that this project has been a success.

I'm not knopcking The Times, often buy the paper, but it doesn't contain anything far superior to other papers, so this inclination that they will create a "readership elite" for advertisers to cream over will not happen, in my opinion of course

Nonny Mouse said...

They can probably make more money in the medium term by selling their online content to a few people, but they lose their position as opinion makers. In the long tem it will hurt their brand and probably even hurt their print edition.

Paul Halsall said...

The thing is news - as in major news - has always been free. Murdoch is wrong in thinking otherwise.

About 85% of daily news is the same in all the UK papers, so you pay for features and opinion.

But on the net, there will always be other opinion-offerers who are just as interesting, and lots of features beyond any newspaper.

Already one can see lots of Times minded conservatives infesting the Guardian's CIF boards, simply because they (in a performative contradiction) do not want to pay the Aussie bastard.

Nonny Mouse said...

Their biggest mistake was timing. Guido already has a graph showing falling page views, but a lot of that is the election spike falling out of the numbers. They should have done this before the election when people were hungry for news.

Graeme said...

Agree and have already made the point to them that I pay and have paid for the Sunday Times nearly every week for some 45years- but wont pay for it electronically. Got no reply

p smith said...

Iain, News International are fully aware that their sales are going to fall through the floor in the short term. I do not know a single person who subscribes to their online package. For my own part while I used to click on their site most days, I no longer bother for the same reason as you.

That said, Murdoch's calculation and strategy is simple. He hopes that the other broadsheets will follow his lead thereby forcing the educated reader to subscribe somewhere. They will then increase their prices in tandem and operate a cartel.

At present, the Guardian, Telegraph and Indy make no money from allowing free access to their content and Murdoch calculates that now he has "broken the seal", they will take the decision to follow suit and open up a new revenue stream.

What would we be left with then? A string of partisan blogs which largely cannot be trusted to provide impartial news coverage? Foreign newspapers which only touch upon stories of international import? The BBC? Such a limited choice might be enough to persuade you or I to pony up and subscribe to a paper of our choice.

Stuart said...

Iain, I have some sympathy with what you're saying. But I think you forget that, whilst your principal aim is to have your words read as an end in itself, the Times is publishing principally to raise money.

So even if only 1 in 10 of their previous readers now reads their website, but pays for it, the change could prove to be worth it. The FT, WSj, etc, have obviously thought so. Supposedly, it is the success of the subscription-access WSJ that convinced Murdoch to put the Times behind a paywall in the first place.

This is an interesting development, and I agree with much of what you say. But it's certainly not the whole picture. The simple equation "more readers = more income = better" doesn't operate here...

Jabba the Cat said...

I find little comment in the real expressing a lament for the departure of the Times into it's self imposed digital prison.

It will be interesting to see what, if any, effect the closure of the Guardian in due course will have on the situation.

Richard said...

I used to link to The Times a lot from my blog, but I haven't subscribed, for the same reasons you give. I still get the paper, but having the articles online makes it easier to quote and refer, so I don't bother. It was a brave move, but I suspect we will be seeing the free online version back before too long.

trevorsden said...

From what one of the comments says - those who buy the paper would be better subscribing and then they get on-line access 'free'.

But what do you get 'on line' with any paper. For £1 you are not going to read' it from cover to cover, just browse. That is the whole point of the internet isn't it, to browse.
If I wanted to 'read' the Times I would subscribe to the print edition - perhaps this is what Murdoch hopes to protect.

What we get on sitsd like this is interaction. On line newspapers are really just electronic copies of the print edition. To think about charging they really shod be offering something extra, something different.

And in terms of on line income - well surely like free papers like the Evening Standard they should be hoping to make money out of advertising which requires a high number of visits.

Libertarian said...

@Paul Halsall

Totally agree, and if the Times journalists had any entrepreneurial spirit they would realise that no one ever pays for news as it's available 24/7 free so what people pay for is interesting opinion and argument.

So stop working for a big corporate, join the free market revolution, set up a blog build a readership and sell ad space...sorted ( an you end up earning more than being a corporate lackey)

Douglas said...

This may be the route to follow for many papers. Other publications such as Time magazine have taken a slightly different paywall route so it will be interesting to see what happens.

I am concerned, however, that there may be an even greater separation of news and self-declared 'informed' comment and that the internet, with blogs in particular, creating an even bigger gap between news, comment and truth.

Even Iain falls into this gap when is prejudices are exposed. The EU egg story has been shown to be wrong on so many levels yet Iain still has not shown why he was correct to blindly follow the herd as oppose to investigate the truth.

'News' has already become 'views' in many cases and if the only online free sources are views then it bodes ill for the truth.

ukelect said...

The Times journalists and columnists on Twitter are clearly concerned about it, though they're doing their best to joke about it.

btw, it's only £1 this month for the whole month, Iain! I did click to pay my quid but changed my mind because they wanted to know my address, etc. Imagine if the street newspaper vendors insisted you gave them your address before handing over a copy! Crazy.

Karen said...

I buy The Times on Saturday and The Sunday Times. Quite often I want to send a link for an interesting article to my daughter in America. Now I would have to pay to access the online edition of the newspaper and presumably she would have to pay at the other end to read it as well. It's a non-starter.

David Anthony said...

The model just can't work while the BBC website exists.

You might ask when it was decided that we should have a government funded, central news and magazine source on the internet. But I guess we never were.

The BBC decided that it's something they should be doing in the nation's interest and allowed it to balloon in size year-on-year.

The same reason we ended up with BBC Three, 6 Music, Asian Network, ...

Normansbike said...

Ian, you admit you would like to read Danny Finkelstein's (IMO must read) pieces, yet do not want to pay for the pleasure. Should Danny and the rest of The Times just do their job for free? You are not alone, but I find it depressing that someone with a right-leaning -- and intelligent - point of view in life should somehow feel that good journalism should be free. I don't mind if you admit that you are too tight (or in some cases can't afford)to pay, but please don't make out somehow it's your - dread word - right. Heaven forbid anyone should one day think that about the books you publish.

Iain Dale said...

Normansbike, I don't think you can have read what I wrote. I dont object to them charging at all, and nor do I expect to read stuff for free. But I also have the right to say I am not going to pay for it if I dont want to!

If I charged people to read this site, some people would pay and others wouldn't.

Botogol said...

there have always been free newspapers...

.. people still pay for other newspapers.

the times will be OK.

Guido Fawkes said...

I don't think Murdoch really gets the net. They now claim the iPad is going to make it work, why?

DM Andy said...

I think £2/week is a perfectly reasonable amount to pay for access to the Times, it's cheaper than the printed word but then NI saves on the overheads of printing and distribution.

However one of the joys of the internet is being able to read the news from more than one angle, I read the Telegraph, Guardian, NY Times, Washington Post, Haaretz, Jerusalem Post and the Sydney Morning Herald daily and others when I want to know more about a story. I couldn't justify paying £2/week to every single one of them so if they go behind a paywall I won't read them any more.

If all newspapers go behind firewalls then I'll probably stick to the Guardian, others will stick to their favourites and we'll all be less well informed.

Blackacre said...

Stuart, the FT and WSJ are not newspapers in the true sense as their constituency is so limited. My firm pays for an FT subscription as it is a business tool. The Times is not unless you are in the media.

I do hope it succeeds though as if we drive away payment for news, who will provide it? Whilst I appreciate blogs, I do like to read some professionals too.

Simon Gardner said...

@Iain Dale said...
“If I charged people to read this site, some people would pay and others wouldn't.”

Hahahahahahahahahahaha. Some people would pay...
Hahahahahahahahahahaha.

Edward said...

As a Times and Sunday Times subscriber I get 'free' access to both websites. How will I appear in the stats? As I don't find any useful additions on the sites I don't visit. Never-the-less in theory I am a paid subscrber.

Greg said...

@Guido - I have checked my mail and news for a couple of years on my phone - mostly just the headlines on the Sky, Telegraph apps. 'Reading' a 'paper' is not really viable on a screen that size. However, the iPad is a game changer. For the past few weeks I have read - alternating by article in some cases (sad, I know) between the iPad specific versions and print versions of The Times, Sunday Times, Spectator, FT (together with a few other mags, etc). I have had the Sunday Times delivered for the last 30 years. Now I have my head around the (slightly counter intuitive) menu structure, I see no reason to have to manhandle a broadsheet anymore. Ditto books - I have read more books since having the iPad than in the past 2 years.

Libertarian said...

@Greg

Well I read ( or did until the app stopped working under IOS4) The Daily Telegraph ever day as well as other news sources on my phone and when I don't want to lug stuff around I read books on my phone too.

I'm an old git with poor eyesight but find it all perfectly ok on phone screen

cherami said...

Why should I give them my address when I buy a sub?

That's what really rankles.

James said...

Will not pay under any circumstances.

I shall miss reading Mike Atherton, Stephen Jones and one or two other sports writers.

However, I will emphatically not miss the likes of David Aaronovitch, AA Gill and the fatuous India Knight.

Wonder how many jobs will be lost.........maybe that's Murdoch's end game.

Woolman's Son said...

News International are very strange. I've subscribed to the Kindle edition of the Times, because that's how I want my paper in the morning - ie, not on a dead tree, not on a computer-on-my-breakfast-table, not flashing with their advertising etc.

With the Kindle, I just get what the paper's writers have written that day - and that's all I want.

However, it transpires that despite this subscription, they propose that I should pay a new subscription to access their website. Extraordinary. No loss to me, because I've already got the paper. But a loss to them because their advertisers won't see me.

I think basically they've just got it wrong. The internet is not really for readers, it's for browsers and advertisers. The Kindle, on the other hand, is for readers and writers. I wonder how long it will be before the Times realizes it's making more money from its Kindle subscriptions than its website paywall plus advertising combined?

Not long, is my guess.

Giles said...

Times going behind a paywall in order to "break the seal" with a cartel end game of all charging?

If competiting broadsheets just received all the Times ex-browsers massively increasing banner advertising, why give up that new income at a time when the 2nd Crunch is coming around?

The paper edition cost to include online in the UK only - if anything.