The Times’ all-or-nothing paywall was a shock to the system – but the News of the World’s paywall move today was even more extreme.
Both are examples of the fact that, for Rupert Murdoch the internet is so over. Without any inbound or outbound links, and invisible to Google and other search engines, the NotW, Times and Sunday Times don’t really have internet sites – but digitally delivered editions.
Readers can now see barely a word beyond the homepage of the second biggest selling newspaper in the UK without handing over their credit or debit card details. It suddenly feels like the age of ubiquitous free online news really is coming to an end.
With The Times and Sunday Times there was at least a month’s grace where registered readers could sample the site. But this time even to claim a £2 credit for two 24-hour passes, readers need to provide their payment details.
The “top people” who read The Times might get their credit cards out online, but will the mass-market readers of the News of the World? And shouldn’t a newspaper which sells advertising based on a huge readership as possible be trying to reach as many eyeballs as possible?
Up to a point…But red-tops have always been more subscription businesses than the “qualities”. Traditionally they have made about three quarters of their revenue from cover price, versus 25 per cent from advertising. So commercially the paywall move is logical.
And News International insiders believe it makes sense editorially as well. The “quality” papers mostly carry the same stories as each other, they argue, but the News of the World is jam-packed with exclusives every week which make it different from any other paper.
My only initial criticism is the clunkiness of the payment process. There is is a huge difference between digging some shrapnel out of your pocket to hand over to the newsagent on a Sunday morning and handing over your credit or debit card details.
I fear the new paywalls around News International will be built on shaky foundations unless some new, more casual, payment mechanism can be found – perhaps via mobile phone text message.
And here is a quick tour that I have taken of it (below). First impressions are that it loads incredibly quickly and it looks a lot slicker than The Times and Sunday Times with some nicely designed landing pages for the various sections and sub sections.