Rupert Murdoch’s News International introduced its paywall on Friday. The Drum quizzed industry insiders about their experiences with the new site and to gather their opinions of paywalls in general.
DON SMITH, CREATIVE DIRECTOR, REALISE
As a huge fan of The Day Today and Brasseye, I can’t watch or read any news without seeing the opportunity for satire and sarcasm that Chris Morris so poignantly captures. That the Times employs journalists with names like Finkelstein, Spackman, Whipple and Rees-Mogg only compounds my childish giggles. But I admire the Times for moving to a subscription approach.
Like all creative people who generate content, the journalists seem to have raised their game on the notion that it is not being punted out to the world and its mother absolutely free. The price is arbitrary. It’s the willingness of the audience to place a value on the content they receive that matters.
It’s a very human trait to need to feel that you and the work you produce is valued. And when it is valued, you try harder to improve its value.
One big criticism of the site in general is that the close proximity of the interaction points can make it difficult to navigate on the iPad.
TIM DOWNS, HEAD OF PR, BRAHM
I must admit I wasn’t a regular visit to The Times site before the paywall so I can’t say whether the site has improved since its implementation. However, time and subscriptions will be the true measure.
They have been pretty smart about the way they have designed the journey into paying for the site. At first glance you get a busy, yet functional homepage which gives you snippets of the daily content - so it’s not as if you don’t get something for nothing. It does mean that you’re not instinctively going to go elsewhere in an immediate huff because of their absolute cheek.
Once you do click to go further in the registration and payment method becomes clear…ish, you have to click twice before you get the proper pricing structure, £1 for 24 hours or £1 for a 30 day trial followed by £2 a week.
Is it value for money? Well that depends. At the moment you can get everything they offer elsewhere for free and until this changes then no it isn’t.
However, bar the catastrophic failure of this exercise it seems inevitable that others will follow suit and then it may well demonstrate its real value.
The biggest issue with the site is that it falls between two stools, are you paying for a lifestyle resource or a news resource? If it’s news, it succeeds in its basic task, if it’s lifestyle it’s too flat and boring to inspire any sort of following.
GARY BRAMWELL, DEPUTY MD, BRAZEN
It isn’t quite an iron curtain but Rupert Murdoch’s paywall – behind which lurks the premium content of The Times online content – provides an interesting dilemma.
Firstly, from what I can tell, it is very much different to what was offered on the site, gratis, previously. I guess that’s not the point though. Murdoch clearly believes the content is worth paying for as it is.
If you’re a Times aficionado, it probably is. Otherwise, you can get pretty much the same deal for free at the Telegraph and Guardian websites. There are a few Times+ bonuses, like exclusive member competitions. But that’s not enough to sway me. The industry is watching though and, if it proves successful, it won’t be long before the cash-strapped Guardian and Telegraph follow suit.
At nearly £9 a week for full access, it’s not cheap either. This jury is still out.
NEIL SCOBLE, MD, HI-MEDIA
The odds appear to be stacked against News International and only time will tell how the industry will respond. It remains unclear how much users are willing to pay to view news online and whether they will accept to pay at all in the long-term. Publishers opting for an-all-or nothing approach to paywalls either now or in the future should take a step back and reassess their options. We believe that advertising models are central to the sustainability of monetising online content but could be supported by very specific paid for content. This method is a much lower risk and can generate a high return on investment.
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