Murdoch’s Paywalls Likely to Prove Futile

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newspaper_small.jpgADOTAS – Tough luck, Brits — Rupert Murdoch doesn’t want you reading his papers for free online anymore. That’s what you get for making all those Ozzie jokes — whose the shrimp on the barbie now?

Paywalls will be effective in June are around News Corp.’s London rags, The Times and The Sunday Times. For a pound, a user can access www.thetimes.co.uk and www.thesundaytimes.co.uk for a day and for two pounds, a week.

While sites like Newsday have foundered with a paywall in place, News Corp. has had a healthy experience with The Wall Street Journal (though it should be noted that WSJ.com had a subscription plan long before the News Corp. acquisition). However, like its subscription-only brethren The Financial Times, WSJ is a business-related publication that subscribers can claim as a business expense (as they’re likely to do with the rumored $17.99-per-month WSJ iPad app).

But consumer dailies, as Newsday has proved, are different beasts. Why would a consumer pay for content he or she can likely get elsewhere?  Paywall advocates swear that consumers will subscribe to publications that produce local-centric content — but Newsday has put a dent in that theory, being primarily focused on Long Island, NY.

London’s a mite bigger than ‘gisland and there are plenty of free sites covering the happenings (for news, you’re better off with the BBC News website anyway (and I like the Guardian). Sure, certain bloggers may not be as high quality writers as The Times (though quality at print journalism outfits has been questionable for some time — not that I’m biased), but it’s still FREE — and Internet users show time after time that they don’t see any reason to pay.

Paul Carr puts it bluntly — Murdoch’s lost his marbles and both sites will fail. Pretty simple reason — whether in print or cyberspace, newspapers and magazines are held aloft by advertising, not subscriptions. You tell me, marketing pros — why on Earth would you advertise on a subscription pub when there’s a free site with similar content?

It’s interesting that Murdoch — who loves to compare Google to a parasite and has threatened to de-index content from the Google News site — is paywall experimenting with his Brit pubs instead of his American ones, such as The New York Post. Perhaps he’s not all that confident in the paywall move — there’s certainly no reason for him to be, unless Carr is right…

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