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