No newspaper round-up from me over the weekend so I thought I would analyse what The Times paywall has taught Murdoch.
It has been announced that the Australian Murdoch papers are going to go behind a partial paywall, with some content free and some charged, along the model of the Wall Street Journal rather than the much more stringent Times paywall. The editors of the Aussie papers are saying their decision has nothing to do with the UK but I think it shows the Times paywall is failing.
If the Times paywall was working brilliantly the Aussie papers would surely be looking more seriously into the model of full paywall with no leaks, like they have at the Times. But it isn’t.
Earlier this month the Times produced some statistics claiming over 100,000 unique users since they have charged for content. These figures proved to be much less solid than the wall, with over half being promotional packages and the extra revenue from paid content barely covering the advertising revenue lost.
And worse for the paper, its stories ceased to have as much gravitas in political communities – they just started to disappear. The fact is that within the blogosphere the paper just ceased to exist.
When I was working at politicshome.com one of the things we did was monitor and filter all the blogs, tweets, and news stories. It was immediately noticable the day after the paywall went up that the number of mentions of Times stories collapsed. Suddenly a small gosspiy piece on some politician would get picked up by Guido or someone who could summarise it and take the internet traffic. Or even worse the story just wouldn’t get picked up at all.
It became immediately noticeable that the wall was destroying their influence within the online political community. On some days the FT’s political blog (a paper behind a partial paywall) got more coverage than the whole of the Times.
Name me a single political story that the Times has really got the internet credit for in the last three months? I can’t think of any. The Mandelson serialisation disappeared on the web, the George Bush interview got gazzumped by the Guardian, need I go on? All of these stories died on the internet because no one could access them.
Why is this important? Well newspapers have to realise that they are bought because people talk about them. If I see a really great story on the internet in the Times I might, just might, pick up the paper and see what else they have. If I never hear about that story I just won’t.
Alsoit suggests that it is only a matter of time before the Times comes creeping out from behind that paywall. The paper has to adopt a cleverer approach to pay walls, rather like the FT and the Wall Street Journal do now and the Aussie papers will do. You cannot afford to kill off internet audiences with blanket walls and I think today’s announcement shows Murdoch is beginning to realise that.