The inevitable has finally come to pass with this week’s announcement that The Times is to introduce paywalls.
Rupert Murdock’s new favourite subject will become reality in June when the paper and it’s sister publication, The Sunday Times will start charging readers for content.
The paper’s stories will also be removed from Google News searches.
So what better way to look into the media’s reactions to the news than a quick search on Google.
The reactions from the leading paper’s were unsurprising; The Guardian hates the idea, The Sun supports it, but they all had one thing in common.
They were all free.
The Financial Times said the experiment was being watched closely by other news proprietors considering a similar move ‘in the wake of falling advertising demand and lower circulations as readers migrate online’.
It added that Murdock’s other titles, The Sun and the News of the World, would also charge online readers in the future, but was quick to point out that ‘The New York Times abandoned its paywall in 2007 after just 1.7 per cent of its 13m monthly visitors subscribed’.
The Independent took the opportunity to attack the Guardian.
Professor of Journalism at the University of Kent Tim Luckhurst questions Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger’s belief that online advertising will outstrip that in print.
Mr Luckhurst writes that within the Guardian ‘there is concern that Mr Rusbridger’s strategy, which relies on funding excellent journalism without erecting online paywalls, is unrealistic’.
He says circulations are falling across the board and that has forced Murdock’s re-think; and may now even lead to questions being raised at the Guardian.
‘In the past 18 months many in the industry have concluded that Mr Rusbridger is wrong: online advertising revenue will never earn enough to pay for serious newsgathering,’ Mr Luckhurst continues, before adding that the new Holy Grail is based on the theory that ‘one reader who pays is worth more than a thousand who do not’.
The Guardian itself features a withering attack on Mr Murdock in its commentisfree section.
Jeff Jarvis, a journalism professor at the City University of New York, blasts the decision as pathetic and claims Murdock has ‘no new ideas to build deeper and more valuable relationships with readers and will send them away if they do not pay’.
He accuses the News Corp boss of trying to transpose old business models onto the Internet, adding: “Just because people used to pay in print they should pay now – when the half-life of a scoop’s value is a click, when good-enough news that’s free is also a click away, when the new newsstand of Google and Twitter demands that you stay in the open, searchable and linkable? ‘
Mr Jarvis concludes: ‘Murdoch is a stranger in a strange land. All he has left to do is build a wall around himself and shrink away, a vestige of his old, bold self’.
That view is opposed by the somewhat surprising opinion of veteran BBC reporter John Humphrys, as expressed in The Sun.
Despite his employer being the epitome of free content, Mr Humphrys writes: ‘Good journalism has to be paid for, just as we have to pay for the plumber who fixes a leak, or it will not survive’.
He argues the ability of newspapers to not care who they upset allows them to speak for people as a whole and develop their own voice.
And that: ‘We must not put the papers at risk by thinking we do not have to pay for them’.
The most notable thing about all these varied opinions and reports?
They are all online and they are all available for nothing.
Very little may be certain in the world of journalism these days, but one thing is.
Come June people will be faced with the option of paying for articles such as this.
The question is: will core readers stick with their favoured paper or simply click back on the browser and choose the next website?
State of Play: To pay or not to pay; that is the question
OK, we’re a couple of days late to this one and it’s already been posted by the likes of FleetStreetBlues, Grey Cardigan and doubtless many others, but it’s still funny.
It must have been either a very mischievous moment or a huge oversight that led to the choice of reporter sent to cover a sex scandal at the Vienna Boys’ Choir.
Perhaps the correspondent chosen by the Times was simply the best man for the job.
In any case it was unfortunate.
Step forward Roger Boyes.
And cue much juvenile sniggering…
Anyone think it was just bankers who were continuing to cash in throughout the recession?
The welcome return of Roy Greenslade sees him point out the hefty pay of US media giants Gannett’s chief executive, Craig Dubow.
Mr Dubow collected $4.7m (£3.14m) in 2009, including a bonus of $1.5m.
Not bad for someone who oversaw a decline in revenue of 22 per cent and sanctioned the departure of 6,000 employees across Gannett’s 84 papers in the US.
And for those lucky journalists in the UK who have had the pleasure of seeing budgets slashed at Newsquest, Gannett is the company which owns the British chain.
Craig the Shred may not sound as good as Fred, but it’s no less accurate.
State of Play: While media lies dying, the vultures pick at the bones
The roll-out of Johnston Press’s new look website continued this week with the Peterborough Evening Telegraph launching the site – to less than critical acclaim.
The ET team’s brave decision to post a ‘What do you think of our new website?’ story has come back with a somewhat unflattering response.
The site has been criticised as ‘very grey,’ hard to read and navigate and containing very little in actual news content.
Other critical comments include: ‘A lot of wasted space down the sides – could be used to make sport more noticeable’.
‘Thoroughly underwhelmed. What was wrong with black and white ? The new colour style makes it difficult to read and people with poor eyesight will really be struggling. First impressions – unimpressed’.
and… ‘Not as good as old one,colour too dull,more difficult to find items’.
And digital experts within JP this week told The Blog that they had not even been consulted on the new look.
Considering readers and editors weren’t either it is perhaps no surprise the site has been slammed.
One insider even told The Blog: “Why go for grey, what is wrong with black?
“The colours at the moment are not even legal. A partially sighted person couldn’t read the text.
“The site is breaking disability rules.”
But despite the criticism and some obvious faults The Blog believes the new look is an improvement on what came before.
Yes, the comments from readers are valid and yes, the grey is awful but surely anything is better than the overcrowded, confusing and boring existing look.
The new site makes the age old mistake of trying to look like a newspaper and in doing so misses the opportunity to integrate tools such as Twitter feeds or Google maps.
But it is cleaner and contains more photographs than the previous incarnation, and – in The Blog’s opinion – is easier to navigate.
The site is due to be rolled out across more JP centres over the next couple of months.
The Blog would be interested to know what people think…
Another week, another press awards night cancelled.
This time it’s the turn of The Scottish Press Photography Awards, which recognises the achievements of staffers and freelancers north of the border.
The awards attracted more than 3,000 enteries last year.
It has been axed after First ScotRail’s contract to sponsor the prize giving expired and Glasgow-based organisers 3×1 failed to secure new sponsorship.
The cancellation follows the news that neither the Newspaper Society Awards or the Regional Press Awards will be running this year.
State of Play: No awards this year
Anyone who has worked in the regional press will be able to tell you about the joys of dealing with national journalists.
The undisguised patronising tone of whet behind the ears, straight out of media studies classes national hacks as they sneer at the supposed knowledge of news editors who have eaten more hot dinners than they’ve written scoops.
The joy of turning up at court with your snapper carefully hidden away ready to take that vital snatch shot only to find PA or the BBC have set up camp in full view of all and sundry, allowing your target to sneak out a back door or cover their head with their coat.
Discovering your carefully crafted and researched front page has been copied and pasted into a tabloid under the by-line of some hack better suited to writing about Kim Kardashian or Katie Price.
Of course, there are many, many quality journalists working on the nationals, but for every one of these there is a celebrity chasing churnalist or supremely arrogant desk jockey.
Only last week a hard-working, local entertainments reporter told The Blog how she had sat next to a reporter from The Times at a musician’s funeral.
The conversation went something like this:
Local reporter: ‘So, where are you from?’
Times reporter: ‘The Times. You?’
Local reporter: ‘The local paper here.’
Times reporter, turning his back on her: ‘Oh.’
It is a subject taken up in the Grey Cardigan’s March column.
‘Bizarrely, the local ‘rag’ is now being celebrated in some parts, albeit in an extremely patronising tone. The Times recently ran a piece with the sub-head “The decline of regional newspapers threatens a unique reporting tradition” and then allowed somebody called Jack Malvern to spend 2,000 words rubbishing much of what we do.
‘I don’t think Jack Malvern has ever worked on a regional, so he had to rely on his experience of sifting agency stories during “occasional” shifts as a copytaster.
‘And we all know that, with respect, agency copy often bears little resemblance to the original story that appeared in our pages.
‘But he can also call on his colleagues, many of whom will have got their start on a regional, for more ammo: “The older generation are well served by local newspapers,” he writes, “in part because they make up a substantial proportion of the readership. Michael Shaw, comment editor of the Times Educational Supplement, had to cover his share of 50th wedding anniversaries for the Bristol Evening Post. ‘Get a group of local reporters in a room and it’s always a matter of time before they start moaning about 50th wedding anniversaries,’ he says. ‘When you ask couples, ‘What’s the secret of a good marriage?’ they always say ‘Give and take’.
‘My colleague Will Stewart, formerly of the Yorkshire Post, got a better answer, though. The woman replied: ‘Well, ‘e never ‘it me’.”
‘Oh what jolly japes. Let’s take the piss out of the provincials.’
With thanks: Grey Cardigan
State of Play: Stop biting the hand that feeds you
PA Group, the owners of Press Association, has named former Telegraph Media Group chief executive Murdoch MacLennan as its new chairman.
Mr MacLennan started in the role yesterday.
With a wide-ranging CV in senior management including roles at Associated Newspapers, Mirror Group Newspapers, Express Newspapers, the Scottish Daily Record and the Sunday Mail he certainly brings experience to the role.
He previously served on the board of the PA Group from 1998 to 2004.