Posts Tagged: paid content

Pay wall fail: Johnston Press didn’t listen to Shoeless Joe Jackson

What are we to take from the decision by Johnston Press to abandon its pay wall experiment early? I don’t think anyone can put it more clearly than Shoeless Joe Jackson, who knew something about building things, and Roy Greenslade who put it like this: the websites are terrible.

That’s almost all you need to say, but not quite. I wrote back in November when this experiment started with six titles charging around £5 a quarter that it would come down to two things: the quality of the content and an appetite to pay for content.

If you don’t get the first right then the second is unlikely to fall into place. Johnston Press also had a problem in that it said it was using the pay walls as “pilot projects”.

Pilots? That suggests hedged bets, uncertainty, and limited resources. You either go into this with gusto or you don’t go into at all. Johnston Press didn’t seem to know quite what it hoped to get out of the project.

It was never prepared to commit its big guns in titles such as The Yorkshire Post and The Scotsman (or what’s left of it), but instead turned to a number of local titles such as the Whitby Gazette and Worksop Guardian.

The readers of these titles had to be offered the chance to read great content if you were asking them to pay, but that’s not what happened.

Some of the stories on offer were simply teasers with an invitation to read more in the printed paper. What to say about that? It’s stupid. I mean really who did Johnston Press speak to about this project before embarkation?

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One cup of coffee: Murdoch pitches The Times at £2 a week

When I heard the news this morning that Rupert Murdoch has unveiled his plans to charge for The Times my reaction was two fold: 1. Finally; 2. At £2 a week that’s a cup of coffee. Good pitch.

Okay so the deal is you can buy The Times and Sunday Times for £1 a day or £2 a week. The daily £1 charge is what the paper costs on a week day and I don’t think they’re expecting the majority of people who pay to vote for that option. I mean why would you? Instead for the price of one cup of coffee, give or take, you can have access to the paper for an entire week. That’s £2 online versus £8.50 offline.

That strikes me as a good deal. I understand the reaction that some people had that £2 is too much, but I think there was a danger for News International in charging too little. If it did that there was I think a chance that people would not take it seriously and would say that it didn’t value its own product highly enough.

Read more on One cup of coffee: Murdoch pitches The Times at 2 a week… considers £2 daily charge

The Financial Times is saying it might charge around £2 a day to access and is to introduce Paypal. Micropayments are still being thought about as well.

Speaking at the FT’s Digital Media and Broadcasting Conference in London John Ridding today said would begin trialling Ebay’s PayPal online payments and mentioned the £2 a day charge. That’s a very interesting figure, of course. It is what the paper costs and so the FT is drawing a clear line between its print content and its online content in terms of value (although at the moment it is still pushing that £1 trial offer).

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Guardian CEO says charging for specialist content an option

Guardian boss Carolyn McCall has echoed other execs at the paper in ruling out a move to paid content, but said that it could charge for “specialist content”.

In an interview with the Financial Times, the Guardian Media Group chief executive said that while her position was not set in stone she saw no commercial evidence that pay walls generate returns. Read more on Guardian CEO says charging for specialist content an option…

ABCe’s spell bad news for Times and good new for

Here’s something to think about. You are Rupert Murdoch and you are erecting a pay wall around The Times in London in the Spring and your unique users take a 5% dive in December to put you 16 million behind the Guardian.

Ouch, I mean really. What else can you say? I don’t know. I have no idea about any of this but I am looking at the figures.

These figures are for December. We might have bought less newspapers but some of us were surfing a great deal more.

The Guardian is up by 3.32% to 36,980,637 million. The Mail Online is also up by even more to 5.1% to 32,843,958.

The Independent was up as well. Wore the Indy, which rose 4.71% to 9,347,658 million, is closing on the The Mirror dropped 8.73% to 9.7 million uniques. Isn’t that just a little embarrassing? To be more than 10 million behind the Sun Online? The Sun Online rose 3.5% to 20,907,012.

Back to the Guardian and Times Online. There is so much daylight between the two that you could hold a daylight saving convention (do they have those?). It can not be encouraging if you are about to put up a pay wall. I say that as a fan of the paper. I like The Times. I’m a huge fan of David Aranovitch.

The same question must apply to Times Online as it does to the Mirror. What is our closest rival doing so right that it grows and continues to do so and we go in the opposite direction at a faster pace? It is not an isolated fall. Times Online’s unique users fell in November as well down 1.65% year on year to 20.9 million.

So much so that it allows Guardian editor Alan Rushbridger to come out earlier this week and say that Guardian News & Media (which made £25m from online ad revenues in 2009) is putting is faith not in pay walls, but online advertising and free content. It could do that from a position of great strength.

Clearly, there is something to be done at the Times and it knows this. Earlier this week it promoted Daniel Finkelstein to executive editor online. As well as being involved in pay wall plans he will clearly be looking at what it is already doing. Looking at what works and what does not work so well.

He has overseen the paper’s Comment Central operation. Good work too, I would say if Times Online wants to repeat some of the success The Guardian has had in that area it has a way to go yet.

Maybe Finkelstein who is the paper’s former chief leader writer, a one time SDPer and Tory advisor, has some tricks up his sleeve. A drop to less than 20 million uniques says he’ll need them.

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Murdoch to sell the Times as pay walls will not work?

Twitter was buzzing last night with the rumour that Rupert Murdoch was considering dumping The Times after tweets from media commentator Michael Wolff.

On first inspection the idea sounds incredibly far fetched if not preposterous. Here’s what was said over the course of three tweets: “Rumor making its way around London banking circles: Murdoch’s Times and Sunday Times up for sale. Stay tuned.

“Working it right now. Being characterized as ‘strong rumor among private equity’ that Times and Sunday Times could be on block.

“Would appreciate any further intell on rumor of Murdoch sale of London Times and Sunday Times. Working on it today.”

The basis of the rumour is that pay walls will not work and Murdoch and his key executives know it. This would be a major change of heart considering how Murdoch has been talking up pay walls these last few months and told us all that “the ad model is dead” and The Times in London will launch a pay wall in the Spring.

Michael Wolff clearly has some good contacts and a detailed knowledge of Murdoch and his business having written the biography ‘The Man Who Owns the News’.

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Guardian says "around 40" journalists to take voluntary redundancy

The Guardian has reported that around 40 Guardian News & Media editorial staff (out of a target of 100 jobs) are taking voluntary redundancy. This includes several staff from its media website

Those taking voluntary redundancy according to the report include Stephen Brook and Chris Tryhorn who work on and the Guardian’s San Francisco-based technology reporter Bobbie Johnson.

The story quotes a Guardian News & Media spokesman saying: “A number of staff have had their requests for voluntary redundancy confirmed this week. Work on the budget and discussions with individual members of staff are ongoing, and the total number of people leaving will not be finalised for some time.”

The cuts are part of a plan to cut £100,000 in cost at the Guardian and come in the same week that Guardian News & Media revealed a £57m pre-tax loss in the year to March 2009.

Its going to be interesting to see how the cuts to affect is coverage as the pool of journalists covering the UK media sector recedes (Media Week in print close here last year).

It has been speculated that Guardian News & Media will have to resort to compulsory cuts if it doesn’t hit its target voluntarily.

Also this week it was reported that The Guardian’s editor Alan Rusbridger ruled out any move towards a pay wall.

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Guardian editor rules out pay wall

In case you were wondering which way The Guardian will jump in terms of paid content Alan Rusbridger has shed light on it and said no way to a pay wall.

Speaking at Coventry Conversation talk, run by Coventry University journalism department, Rusbridger said following Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation down the pay wall route was crazy according to a report on

“It would be crazy if we were to all jump behind a pay wall and imagine that would solve things,” Rushbridger said.

He added that while a pay wall was unlikely he said it was good that publishers were experimenting “trying different things”.

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Paidcontent considers charging for access

Guardian Media Group’s Paidcontent blog is taking a look at charging readers for access to its site. It has put out a survey with suggested pricing of $399 (£249) a year.

The survey says “ContentNext media (parent of is considering moving over to a new Premium Subscription Service for their publications. As you currently use, we would like to understand your opinions on our new service.”

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Pay wall day – Johnston Press begins charging for content

Today is a big day. Not only is it some huge online shopping day, but regional newspaper firm Johnston Press has switched on its online pay wall and is now charging readers to access content on some of its websites.

In all six weekly newspapers are in the Johnston Press pilot news of which broke last week, but not its bigger and better known dailies like The Scotsman and the Yorkshire Post.

The papers involved in the pilot are the Whitby Gazette, Northumberland Gazette, Worksop Guardian, Ripley and Heanor News and two Scottish titles: The Southern Reporter and Carrick Gazette. Oddly only the first two in that list have the story that they pay wall goes up today on their home page.

Here’s what The Northumberland Gazette is saying on its website:

“The Northumberland Gazette has been chosen to pioneer a new way of accessing its premium content online. Its parent group Johnston Press has selected three of its weekly titles to offer its news, sport and other ‘live’ content only to subscribers.

“From today (November 30), readers of the Gazette website will only be able to view the first few words of a story before they will be asked to pay £5 quarterly for all premium content on the site. They will then receive access to the whole site for three months, which still works out at less than the cost of the paper.”

Clearly, the particular payment model is going to vary from title to title; from weekly to daily, to regional and to national, but for this market £5 a quarter (5.5p a day) seems like a good price point. To me at least and it is going to be interesting to see what readers of these local titles think of it. And more importantly whether they will in sufficient numbers pay the modest sum being asked to access the website of their local newspaper.

There aren’t any comments on the stories announcing the move to a pay wall and none elsewhere that I could find so there is no real way of knowing what readers think. Clearly, Johnston Press will have done local market research and had enough positive feedback to convince it that these markets would (in some form) support its move.

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