Here’s a tough assignment – write 1,000 words on the great paywall debate for The Times.
Murad Ahmed does an even handed-job on this today, considering the rather large vested interest News International has in its all or nothing paywall scheme working.
‘In the late Nineties, the press committed its Original Sin. When newspapers launched their fledgling websites, they decided not to charge people to view them. Few could have imagined how the internet would change their industry. In that era, newspaper websites were a small operation that could easily be paid for through advertising on the sites. Even if these digital newspapers wanted to charge, they probably could not. The mechanisms and infrastructure required to take payments from people online either did not exist or were unwieldy.
“Many feared, as they do today, that their growing online readership would cannibalise its print editions. At various stages in the past 15 years, The Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph have all experimented – mostly unsuccessfully – with charging online readers or making their users register to view their websites.”
There seems to be more hope than certainty in the piece which does not make a compelling case for the paywall gambit working:
“The Times‘s digital team is optimistic that the public will find its new website compelling enough to pay for. Executives have admitted that many people may go elsewhere for news, opinion and features – but that research has shown that many will consider paying to access the Times website.”
You can read the full piece here, for free if you register (for the next month anyway).