New models of journalism: Volume 1

12 Dec

In the upcoming weeks, there will be multiple posts in which I will explain new models of Journalism and how they work and have been influenced in the first place. The idea came from a lecture I have had last week where new models of journalism were explained to us and I found it very interesting. In this first volume, I will talk about the paywall in relation to Rupert Murdoch and the effect on journalism.

Pay Wall

A paywall blocks access to a webpage, by making it required to pay before visiting parts or the entire webpage. First, to explain the pay wall, I have to go back to the founder of the paywall for The Times, Rupert Murdoch.

Rupert Murdoch is one of the most powerful businessmen on the planet (he is worth $6.2billion) and the CEO of News Corporation. He owns many newspapers across the world such as The Times, The Sun, and the New York Post and also, owns Sky TV in the United Kingdom as well as Fox Network in the United States.

The reason why he is so important to the paywall, is because he wants all websites under News Corp. to charge consumers eventually and he believes it is a new way to make money.  This way, when newspapers make the switch to both newspaper and online newspaper, they can make a profit out of a webpage and thus make money with online journalism.  As a matter of fact, this could be beneficial to future journalism.

A News Corp. Veteran said: “What Rupert always does, is use whatever technology is available as a publishing mechanism. In this, they are reshaping the internet, or at least the world wide web, as a simple one-way publishing tool. Take us or leave us. Most will leave.“

This leads to a different conflict, how beneficial is the paywall? Does it really save journalism online? Or maybe it is just another trick to make money.
A few People who are against the paywall say that according to the latest statistics not only is nobody subscribing to The Times online, but subscribers to the paper who already get free access to the website, are not going any further than the registration page. Therefore, it can be argued how useful it is for online journalism. “It’s as though their writers don’t exist anymore.” according to a Fleet Street veteran. This translates into journalists, who are working behind a paywall, will have fewer readers.

In contrast, some people who are for the paywall claim that even though The Times paywall may fail as a business plan, it is strange to say that just because people are used to getting free content on the internet it does not have to stay that way. In the end, all newspaper companies are just trying to save the newspaper business in the online age and, to keep continuing to pay their journalists and editors for professionally made content, rather than leaving the writing to bloggers.  After all, the paywall could be useful to divide the good writing on the web from the bad writing as blogs will be free but may not be as good writing and, if you are willing to spend some money you will receive higher quality journalism. It is not that bloggers always write worse than journalists for The Times, but there is a lot of badly written journalism in the blogosphere.  On the opposite, there is also a lot of good writing in the blogosphere so it is just the trick of finding it, and in the end the consumers get more choices.  In my opinion, blogs and newspapers online should complement each other, not replace one another.

Another aspect to note is that the paywall originally was supposed to make up for the loss of print circulation, due to the internet and free content.

However, even if the paywall could be successful, are people ready for this development or should it just stay free for the newspapers own good? According to KPMG, two per cent would pay for something they currently use for free. They also found out that TV and newspapers keep being the primary sources of news across all ages, making it a lot more resilient to online content than may appear at first.

Lastly, now we know the sides of the paywall, what are the newspapers doing now and in the future and what is their position towards paywall?

The Times and Sunday Times launched the website in May 2010 and in June it went behind the paywall. The websites charges £1 for one day of access or £2 for a week and this can also be bundled to a seven day print subscription to any of these newspapers. According to a new research from Experian Hitwise it suggests that 54,000 people a month are accessing behind the paywall. But, the GNM research states that “UK visitors to the Times website who viewed content behind the paywall were more likely to visit other news websites – including the Guardian – than visitors who did not view content behind the paywall, suggesting that the introduction of the paywall has not increased loyalty.” As for the future, they are venturing out onto other platforms and this weekend the Sunday Times has been officially launched on the iPad.

A rival of the Times and one of the leading newspaper websites, The Telegraph has recently decided to go behind a paywall as well. It rivals with The Times, the Guardian and the Daily Mail for top British paper online and unusual for an online paper website, it was actually making a profit. Earlier this month, The Telegraph wrote about The Times paywall: “They are making less from their paywall site than they would have made from a free one. And competition online will continue to grow, with new players offering sites that will be free to reader and very agile when it comes to selling web advertising. Acquiring new readers will get harder for paywall sites, not easier.”

To combat this problem, The Telegraph has decided to use a different hybrid paywall system but only the future can tell whether this will be more successful.

After all, the paywall design is still developing for the good and the bad. For example, News of the World has dropped 40% in visitors since it introduced a paywall in October but, because of the introduction of the paywall, other news websites are benefiting from the migration of readers. Consumers that previously were readers of paywall websites are now going to their rivals such as the Guardian, The Independent and the Mail Online. This is a new trend happening since the paywall got introduced but, we can only wait how this will affect the paywall as it could be the end for the latest model of journalism.

Lecture notes week 12


One Response to “New models of journalism: Volume 1”

  1. Monex December 21, 2010 at 6:06 am #

    The News of the World website will join NI stablemates the Times and Sunday Times behind an online paywall next month. The UK s biggest-selling Sunday national newspaper the is to go behind s online paywall next month.

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