London Times goes Paywall

Updated GuyClapperton 0 Tallied Votes 430 Views Share

It's starting in the UK - the London Times (we just call it the Times over here but I imagine that would have a different connotation for American readers) is going to have a paywall after May. Subscribers will be allowed in for nothing.

Clearly the Wall Street Journal has been operating in this way for a while, but that has a lot of noted specialists on board and it's pretty much in a different league. The Times has a broader reach over here.

Watching the newspapers try to work out how to make the Internet pay is becoming quite a pastime for Internet commentators - and it gets to the nub of a lot of discussions on what people are promoting and what it's actually worth. In no other industry that I can think of (and I'm happy to be proven wrong here) is there such a disparity between people being willing to pay for a hard copy and expecting soft copy for free. Maybe music would be an example, where a lot of people think they should be able to download for nothing but would be OK about buying a CD in a shop.

How this pans out is therefore likely to affect more than just the newspaper industry - anyone who publishes anything as part of a marketing campaign is likely to see their offering affected by the ramifications if it goes international. And of course I can see this is a small UK story at the moment, but this is Murdoch and News International we're talking about here.

There's another possible wrinkle. The Times has made a lot of announcing its Internet policy. The editor of one of its leading UK rivals, the Guardian, believes Internet content needs to remain free. On the other hand the Guardian has a paid-for iPhone app, through which you can get at the whole newspaper. When the iPad comes out in the UK in April and reading from the app becomes more comfortable, it'll be interesting to see whether the circulation of the hard copy goes down. My guess is that it's this sort of model rather than quibbling over pricing that will in the longer term shape the newspaper industry.

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