The writing’s on the paywall

You’ve gotta love it. Whilst the rest of the world are getting used to the fact that news is now freely available online and looking at opportunities of making cash through the traffic generated, Rupert Murdoch has decided he just doesn’t like it. I mean, if he’s going to hire people to write up the news he expects to be paid. Even if the same news is being reported for free on a thousand and one other sites around the world. No, he knows his business and expects an honest wage for an honest day’s work. Which whiffs of a sort of petulance and hubris brought on by having always had his own way on a grand scale. Newspapers, Fox, Sky. Hey, he’s good at news and he’s also good at getting people to pay for it.

The problem is that it leaves him looking like a dinosaur erecting a wall to protect a kind of land that time forgot. Flailing around and failing to realise that the internet is a sea change and that Randolph Hirst sitting in his castle barking orders from on high simply doesn’t cut it in this new form of democracy. That a Wapping-inspired siege mentality and control freakery and a Gollum-like obsession with ownership are perhaps not the very best ways of harnessing the incredible power and energy of both the web’s content providers and its readers.

But even beyond the unlikelihood of people paying for what they can get elsewhere, what he also doesn’t seem to have figured is that writers are not simply driven by money. They are bright enough to earn more elsewhere. They write to get things off their chest, to entertain and to influence. To be a part of the debate. In the game and definitely not sitting on the sidelines failing to be heard. Maybe not quite the vain, power-hungry ego-maniacs that some would have us believe. But they want a voice. They write an article they want people emailing it to their friends, posting it on Facebook or Twitter or linking to it on their blog. So as the writers of The Times survey their new landscape I don’t think it’ll be long before they realise that inside the paywall no-one can even hear you scream.

As for me, I remain grateful to The Times for having hosted my blog in the past and for what it’s worth extremely sad that they’ve finally decided to implement the paywall. However, having made the decision to jump I’m now really delighted to be joining The Guardian at such an exciting time in the development of their online strategy. With over thirty million users a month, not only do they have what I consider to be the most vibrant and innovative online presence of any of the national newspaper but also what is now the very best law section, freely available to all. I’m also particularly impressed by the way they have introduced the idea of partnering with bloggers such as myself whereby I can retain my own website and identity as well working directly with them. It’s a paradigm-shift away from the old-school need for ownership and exclusivity and is definitely the way forward for traditional media to harness the power and energy of the web’s creative forces.

July 2, 2010 · Tim Kevan · Comments Closed
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