Rupert Murdoch has just announced an end to free online newspaper content, an idea he first floated a couple of months back. All of his newspapers, from the Times to the Sun, will have paywalls within the year.
Personally speaking, I think this is a mistake. It may be that lots of other newspapers follow his lead, however, there are sure to be a few that remain free-to-air, and they’ll be the ones to prosper, along with the portals, the public service sites and other, “second tier” news providers.
That’s not to say I don’t think you can charge for online content, you clearly can. The FT do it, along with a number of other online publications. However, all content isn’t created equal, and I’m particularly sceptical about how this will work for the redtops, there are far too many other diversions on the internet to see more than a small proportion of Sun readers stumping up for access to the latest non-revelation about Jordan’s love-life. Jeff Jarvis agrees.
It feels to me that this is a slightly desperate move prompted by the £2bn annual loss posted by News Corporation, not a clear-sighted, revenue building strategy of the kind that has made Rupert Murdoch so successful in the past.