Here’s the result of The Times of London’s first step towards a paywall, requiring user logins:
[…] according to Hitwise’s numbers, simply adding the registration barrier has cut traffic to the site almost in half. Prior to the change, The Times was seeing somewhere in the neighborhood of four to five percent of the traffic going to the print news media category; after, it was hovering around two percent.
Hitwise also tracked where users were going once they hit the registration page. About a third stay on one ofThe Times’ properties, but many head straight to another news site (The Telegraph and The Guardian are big winners here), or simply to Google.
It’s nice to see Rupert Murdoch getting a taste of a choice-driven free market.
Oh. I read the subject heading and assumed it was about Dick Cheney. Nevermind.
Can’t wait for the New York Times to erect its paywall. Do they really think people want to part with their hard-earned money to pay for their drivel?
well, there can be wishes for multiple disappearances behind the final paywall, but can somebody rescue the Bugle?
The Grand Panjandrum
I love the smell of schadenfreude in the morning.
The answer here is obviously to privatize the internet and make people pay for everything.
@Kryptik: God bless the hackers.
Hear hear. A young Angelina Jolie and an awesome soundtrack made it…ohhh, you mean the real thing. :P
News content on the internet will shrivel and die.
What will then develop is that the alternative weeklies will start picking up the slack on local news reporting and do some real journalism to pick up readers. It’ll be a slow, painful, miserable process – the inevitable result of the short term bottom line thinking process that the current media conglomerates adopted from the Captains of Industry.
I’m just having some fond memories of the old local newspaper families – they tended to think long term, about the best interests of the enterprise, about how to make things last. Hell, they even felt a sense of civic connection. Then the big media conglomerates loaded with corporate money formed up and bought everything up.
Dude(tte), you’ve not been funny yet. Might take your own advice.
Thought you were referring to Dick Cheney.
I will be going to work for several hours today, I expect to come home tonight and read that he has passed on, okay?
Thanks, Rey :)
Nah – go back to the old aol “pay for time” model. If you had to actually meter your time, would you really waste it on reading Ben Smith on the internet? Or would you instead go and pay your bills, check your email, buy a couple of books off of Amazon, and get one bit of a look at some good porn?
@Rey: Since I don’t believe in hell, I’d rather that he lingered on, suffering, for a while longer.
@Michael: /raises hand Oh! I know the answer to this. Porn!
But you realize how bad my morale would be without my lolcats?
I’m not a bit surprised. In software distribution, it’s often said that every step in the process costs you half your customers.
It’s no accident that successful online retailers have streamlined checkout procedures. (Think Amazon one-click ordering.)
Any barrier to entry, however trivial, can deflect a staggering amount of custom.
From what I’ve read, they are heading in the right direction because they are making the paywall relatively porous. There will be a charge after a certain point, but you will still get a decent number of articles for free. There are a lot of big stories in the paper, but not so many that blogs, which should have a relatively easy time linking to individual stories, should run into trouble. Supposedly, they are heading towards putting the blogs behind the paywall, but perhaps they will reconsider. Those, and stuff like movie reviews, should be always free. It seems like an easy way to pump up page views without really giving away much of the expensive product.
Long story short, it seems like they are trying to charge the heaviest of users, which make up some small percentage of overall frequent visitors–20 percent, perhaps, or something around there–while letting everyone else jump through as few hoops as possible. Considering that it’s that small number of people who wouldn’t mind paying, it seems like a smart way to try to get more revenue. The one thing I want to see is the money being used to reinvest in the news operation. Perhaps they could see if a few pre-Murdoch Wall Street Journal reporters would be willing to finally jump ship.
Phoenician in a time of Romans
Or would you instead go and pay your bills, check your email, buy a couple of books off of Amazon, and get one bit of a look at some good porn?
I’m sorry – there’s good porn on the Internet?
@Rey: Passing on is too good for him.
I’m not wishing for him to die, mind you. But people who he injured for money still have moments of writing in agony, and that’s not even counting the dead. Who are considerable in numbers.
Let him continue to rack up medical bills. I use that in arguments quite effectively.
Massive vascular incident when he’s arrested? I’ll leave that up to fate.
In regards to newspaper families, that’s why one big reason why I remain such a defender of The New York Times. It’s far from perfect, but it’s the closest thing we have to a national, non-mostly business publication that isn’t owned by someone who uses it to air his personal grievances. If it doesn’t stay independent, hopefully it will be snapped up by someone like Mike Bloomberg as opposed to someone like Rupert Murdoch or Haim Saban. Maybe I am being too kind to Bloomberg, but like I said before, the last thing we need is someone who, while perhaps not a complete ideologue, is going to let his personal preferences be on equal footing with the paper’s stated mission.
Rupert’s idea of the free market allows him to collude with the Telegraph and the Guardian. Anti-trust regulations stand in the way of what he would consider a free market.
If the paywalls would have gone up when the newpapers and magazines first went on line – and you had to pay a subscription much like you had to for the dead tree versions, I don’t think this would be much of an issue today. But they started giving shit away and that created an expectation among the purchasers.
@Michael: I just don’t see that format working in this age of the internet. Besides, there was always the old trick of having a stack of discs with 1000 free hours on each, I remember the days of promotion codes.
Also, what should we make of this? From the Hitwise blog:
I’m against the paywall (journalistically speaking, not just as a reader), but to be fair I’m sure they expected this. If they get even 5% of their web users to pay, they’ll consider it a success.
@Phoenician in a time of Romans:
Not that I’ve ever paid a visit to youporn.com or anything like that, ever.
Youporn? For real? Are there untalented people playing tubas and such, jumping off the garage roof, pets doing stupid things, etc while having sex?
Difficult to figure out the revenue stream on that one.
@mr. whipple: Rule 34.
Since no one ever replied to Beltane, and my reply was EPU’d; here it is: Dante was amazingly prescient. The Eight Circle for Fraud. Depending on the specific wanker: Pit 2-The Flatterers, Pit 8-The Evil Counselors, Pit 9-The Sowers of Discord.
@Geeno: See? This game is fun.
@beltane: Dante’s Inferno is a classic of western literature for very good reasons.
@beltane: Personally, I think they should all do time in pit 2 where shit streams out of their mouths whenever they open them.
@mr. whipple: Even though they actually created wetriffs.com I’m still waiting for the sex on top of stormchasing vans site.
@MikeJ: Wait, Wetriffs.com is real? brb
God bless you for that referral.
You just know there would be a market for that.
People are so strange. A few years ago, my dad wanted to sell an outboard motor from the 50’s, and was wondering if it was worth anything. I did some googling for him, and sure enough, there are collectors of outboard motors. I remember seeing one pic of a rec room that was just filled with vintage outboard motors, all cleaned up and hung for display.
There’s an ass for every seat.
something tells me that Murdoch isn’t going to be loving “The Free Market” for much longer….
who knew markets could “self-correct”… LOL
I would think that the NY Times venture a couple of years ago — “Times Select” would have been an example of how NOT to proceed with subscription news / commentary… that lasted less than a year and then they opened it up again…
@sukabi: I absolutely loved Times Select. BoBo and MoDo looked lovely chained behind their firewall.
@beltane: which is where they absolutely belong… let folks pay for that load of crap, if they want it… but don’t pollute everything else by dumping it for free.
@sukabi: If they had a la carte selections, I wonder how many people would pay to read Douthat, Brooks, or Dowd?
@beltane: well, that’s a taste of the “Free Market” that we’ll never get to experience… I suspect that they already know that most of their lineup would be in a soup line instead of sucking up big bucks if it was up to the public to make that call, which is why Times Select didn’t last… I’m sure they’ve got stats on how all their columnists did under that lead balloon… and how many times do you think Brooks got “freed” from the firewall to show up on someone’s blog? You know Krugman and Rich did almost every time they had a column….
Douchehat wouldn’t make a buck if you had to pay to read his blather.
and as for a la carte… I’m still waiting for TV to go that route… pay for what you want, not for the crap you don’t…
@mr. whipple: I thought that story was going to culminate in your accidental discovery of outboard-motor-themed porn.
Wouldn’t shock me if there was :)
@KG: Actually, they *did* — and promptly fell. NYT had required registration for all views for a long time. _Slate_ was subscription-only. The list went on and on.
And *every* one of those paywalls fell.
It turned out that only one paper was able to support a solid paywall: the _Wall Street Journal_, which was, not coincidentally, bought up by Murdoch not so long ago. Since _Journal_ subscriptions include the pay wall passage — and since there subscribers tended to have employer-provided subscriptions to the paper version — the actual wall is really not very interesting.
TBH, I don’t know how much longer the _Journal’s_ paywall will survive, since Murdoch has been allowing individual Google News users to ping through to _Journal_ content a certain number of times per day.
@sukabi: Cable has a very different economic model: cable companies are currently natural monopolies. The only possible competitors they can ever have is phone companies with fiber to the premises, and as the phone companies have discovered, that’s not a profitable venture, as it costs too much to actually lay the fiber.
As a result, until fiber to the home becomes a public utility provided by the community — think municipal electrification — there won’t be any chance for a la carte tv in the states.
kommrade reproductive vigor
Bu-but, I thought advertising would pay for everything?!
You have to register for the WaPo but I think I’ve had to login a grand total of three times since I first did so.
That would depend on the number of living parents each of those losers have.
Seems a good time to dig out the classic Onion article: “Most E-Mailed List Tearing New York Times’ Newsroom Apart.”
@sukabi: I seem to recall Friedman complaining that it was hard to make it as a public intellectual (yeah, yeah, I know) if your ideas weren’t as widely disseminated as possible.
Which meant that even if the times paywall had been a financial success their writers had very different priorities from the bean counters.
People need/want information and news. They could get it free so they did. People love free shit. Always have and always will. So of course people visited and so of course fewer did with this speed bump. Free=easy, password=trouble, trouble=hard, and hard means the lazy will stay away. In the beginning.
Eventually when all of the newspapers start charging in an effort to continue to exist, people will realize that the information that used to be free isn’t anymore. Some will live without it, some will pay for it. Same with print newspapers – some bought, some did not.
In the interim with some charging and some not, those who charge or otherwise make it a tad more difficult to view/link, will lose out to some extent to those that do not. But I don’t know that the total free, no password model is one that can last. These companies have to make money and I don’t know that advertising alone will do it for them.
I’d pay 50p a week to listen to The Bugle podcast, but not a penny to read the rest of the Times’ output. Don’t tell Murdoch, though.
@ET: The problem with your argument is called Google.
It turns out that there are a lot of very low cost, low overhead sources of reportage. Those sources are not, in themselves, a compelling product — but, when gathered together and aggregated, they *become* an interesting product. That’s all the Google (and Bing and Yahoo) do — aggregate content which is available for extremely low cost. Coupled with the various ad networks supporting those tail sources, and the economy of high-end news gathering becomes much more complicated. Think _538_ and _TPM_, if you want examples.
Oh, no, President Obama slipped the WH press corps again. Expect massive cries of butthurt with occasional flashes of ire.
@Joseph Nobles: OMFG! The PRESIDENT ATTENDED A CHILD’S SOCCER GAME.
You know, I wonder if the folks whose Whining Heathers Press Corps understand exactly why any sensible person would disdain them.
From that link:
Permanent media detail. The very thought of that makes me shudder. I can’t imagine having to live with someone trailing me around and tracking my every move. Ugh.
A far more “significant offense”? WTF are these entitled idiots in the media smoking? It’s not like the President broke some law by ditching the media for a hour or two. These people are seriously full of their own importance.
Ella in New Mexico
LOL!! Me, too!
True to a degree. But a lot of sources many Internet users use to get news actually comes from people linking to big news stories from the big papers or at least references to them. Of course they might not realize this.
But news reporting even from those low cost/low overhead sources still costs to produce. Whose to say that in the future we won’t have to pay for those as well. Most Internet users have gotten used to not paying for a whole host of things but I just don’t know that in the future that is going to possible to sustain no matter how hard we might want it.
TPM is great but it is niche and relatively small. I guess people will need multiple venues to cover all the aspects of news. One or more for national, one or more for international, then there is local news, sports, etc. There may come a time when people get tired of this (if some app doesn’t figure out a way around this) and one stop shop is ends up being easier (much like a newspaper is or should be today).
As an aside, I am a librarian and I worry because most of this digital news is going to be lost never to be seen again for one reason or another. And people will want it believe me.
You’d think by this that publishers were nuts to ever think about selling newspapers.
There might be a death spiral at work here. If the paywall model works, other newspapers will inevitably try it, which ultimately may doom information access on the InterTubes, not just keeping people away from sites, but preventing linking. If the paywall model doesn’t work, most news media will die, because no news service can exist by giving their stuff away.
This is not inevitable. Alternative weeklies are having some of the same problems as their big brothers (many of whom also own the alternative papers). They have laid off experienced staffers, cut back on all kinds of content, and have all kinds of circulation problems, especially in the age of the InterTubes, where they have an especially hard time getting people to know where they are. It’s just not easy to tell which is a good alternative weekly, and which is a piece of crap. And even the ones that are halfway decent are focusing more on entertainment and catering to the young than on news coverage.
This certainly wasn’t true of the Hearst family, owners of the LA Herald Examiner, and wasn’t true of the early generation of Chandlers, who were more interested in having an iron grip on Southern California than in anything that remotely resembled civic responsibility.
I once thought that pundits and syndicated columnists might soon feel the pinch of layoffs, but I think now that more and more, news media will cease to become news with big doses of opinion, and instead will become rigid ideology wrapped with a bit of news. If you are fearful about the future of the news media (and you should be), you should check out the Vanity Fair article on the takeover of the Wall Street Journal by Rupert Murdoch (The Man Who Tried To Manage Murdoch).
Rupert Murdoch will be fine with this – happy, even. As far as he’s concerned, the existing userbase is mostly parasitical – if people read stories but don’t click on advertising, there’s no money in it. Changing to a paywall will get rid of maybe 90% of the users, but 100% of the remaining 10% will make money for the Times.
Of course, it will hurt the Times as far as its online visibility is concerned. They’ve blocked Google News – did you notice that Times stories no longer appears in searches? – so their articles won’t be visible to people searching for them. That is what’s the most self-defeating aspect of the new paywalled Times site: it will be pitched to existing customers but it will do nothing to recruit new readers. Ultimately that’s going to cause great harm to the newspaper, particularly as readerships are declining anyway. It’s a case of short term profit over long term benefit – as usual for Murdoch.
Ah, but you make a classic error when you think technical solutions affect the issue of a la carte multichannel video. If you don’t like the business model of cable television, laying more fiber isn’t the key.
Se my blog post here.