In the history chapter of the Online Journalism Handbook you will find a timeline of key events in web journalism. While working on the forthcoming second edition I recently revisited and updated the timeline. Below are the 41 key events I have settled on — but have I missed any? Let me know what you think. Continue reading
This tweet from Daniel Bentley deserves a post all on its own:
Instagram should have disabled all filters yesterday. Would have done journalism a great service.
— Daniel Bentley (@DJBentley) October 30, 2012
This week feels very much like 2009. That year I published a post titled ‘How the web changed the economics of news‘, a brief overview of some of the economic factors impacting on publishing which has recently experienced a resurgence of interest thanks to a Kingston University tutor whose students have been asked to review it. Their posts have been illuminating: not much, it seems, has changed since 2009. Many still think journalism is a high priesthood which will continue to thrive.
Meanwhile, Editor and Publisher’s Kristina Ackermann argues in an editorial that “digital first wasn’t enough to keep [Journal Register Co] from sinking back into bankruptcy” because digital didn’t make as much profit as print and, therefore, it should be abandoned. The NUJ New Media blog piles in with “This has never been a strategy for increasing profitability, but rather a strategy for slashing costs.”
*Sigh.* Continue reading
So, the plans for the New York Times paywall are out. I said when they were first mooted that they looked to be thinking along the right lines in allowing people to view content for free if they came via social media – but I feared that that innovation would be lost along the way.
It’s enormously encouraging to see that it hasn’t.
Why is it encouraging? For two main reasons: firstly, it recognises the importance of distribution in online publishing. If you erect an arbitrary paywall, many people will not bother to link to you because they don’t want to frustrate their friends. That not only hurts your social media traffic, it hurts your search engine ranking.
Variety magazine suffered from this so much recently, it seems, that they launched a blog outside of their paywall with an email begging other sites to link to it.
Secondly, it recognises that they need to balance quality with quantity. Online advertising has yet to settle into any sort of pattern, but metrics of engagement are rising in importance, and one of those metrics is how much traffic comes from recommendations, i.e. social media.
Another metric is, of course, how loyal a user is, how many articles they read, and how much you know about them. The subscription options will allow the NYT to gather that information too – without sacrificing the huge numbers that most advertisers will be looking for.
Curiously, the chairman of The New York Times Company is quoted as saying “A few years ago it was almost an article of faith that people would not pay for the content they accessed via the Web.”
But I don’t think they are paying just for the content. I think this system recognises that they are paying for convenience (you pay more to get the content across web, mobile and iPad than you do to get the same content on fewer platforms – and you could get all the content for free if you can bother to go through Bing), and reliability (not hitting a wall when you want to read the 21st article of the month).
In many ways it is no different to traditional subscriptions: it is the difference between paying for regular deliveries of the whole paper package, and picking up a newspaper that someone has left on the bus or the staff canteen, or borrowing one from a friend, for free.
In the past we accounted for those ‘freeloaders’ and ‘parasites’ – as we call them online – by adjusting our readership figures to reflect that every copy bought was read by 4 people. We didn’t lock down the newspapers and tell subscribers what they could do with them.
And so here we are, with the most mature, intelligent, and commercially sensible paywall model yet.
But we still have no idea if it will work…
UPDATE: Aside from the technical implementation I think Dave Winer has a point about the content proposition
I wager that after six months the News Of The World paywall will have been more successful than The Times in terms of retaining readers. (This is of course different to the more important, wider success of overall revenue).
That is all. See you back here in March.
In a guest post, blogger Tim Kevan explains why he resigned from The Times over the paywall
Back in early 2007 I had been practising as a lawyer for some nine years. But I’d always dreamt of living by the sea and the surf and maybe even writing a novel. I just couldn’t quite see how it could be done.When I finally sat down to write a legal thriller what popped out instead was a legal comedy about a fictional young barrister doing pupillage.
I called him BabyBarista which was a play on words based on his first impression being that his coffee-making skills were probably as important to that year as any forensic legal abilities he may have. I wrote it as a blog and was hopeful it might raise a few smiles but in my wildest dreams I hadn’t imagined quite the extraordinary set of circumstances which then unfolded with The Times offering to host the blog and Bloomsbury Publishing of Harry Potter fame offering to make it into a book.
Since then the first book came out last August and was originally called BabyBarista and the Art of War. It is being re-issued in August under the new title Law and Disorder and the sequel is due out next May.
I was also continuing to publish my blog on The Times until May this year when it became clear that even blogs were going to go behind their new paywall. Continue reading
Currently running as a registration service, The Times plan to launch their paid-for site in the next few weeks. So far they are reluctant to release initial registration figures and the demographic audience they are attracting. OJB caught up with Assistant Editor and Head of Online Tom Whitwell at News:Rewired to find out more:[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCWt1b14yx8%5D
If, like me, you’re a regular reader of The Guardian‘s media coverage, or you listen to their Media Talk podcast, you might have been surprised to have read the following in the February 2010 UK edition of Wired:
The Guardian… hopes users of it’s £2.39 (iPhone) app will pay extra for privileged access to in-demand columnists. (p.89)
This seems to fly in the face of what I know about The Guardian‘s digital strategy. The Guardian have always seemed to be staunch opponents of paywalls, and Emily Bell, Director of Digital Content at Guardian News & Media, always seems to me to take a particularly strong line that she doesn’t want to charge for online content. I asked her to comment on Wired‘s claim. “I’m not sure where the ‘columnists’ assumption comes from, not us, that’s for sure. Bit off beam” she told me on Twitter (incidentally the ‘columnists’ in question include David Rowan, Wired‘s Editor, who co-wrote the piece).
So, order is restored to my universe: The Guardian is still the bastion of free online content, creatively looking for another way to make digital pay. But wait, what’s this? Wired have weighed back in, with this tweet:
@jonhickman @emilybell Came from a senior Guardian exec who demonstrated the app in person, actually
So, are The Guardian really thinking about paywalls? Was this loose talk? Has there been a misunderstanding? Is someone fibbing?
I don’t know, but I think it matters. The Guardian‘s online brand seems to be about free: free data, free access, free comment. If there’s a grain of truth in Wired‘s claim, what does it tell us about the future of online access?
Questions from a UCLAN student on paywalls, published here as part of my FAQ section:
1.A tabloid’s cover price barely covers the distribution costs, showing all profits are aquired through advertising: Given that The Sun & Daily Mail still sell 5million copies between them, how much do you think making companies advertise across two platforms (print and online) has damaged the business model of journalism to force solutions in paywalls?
Firstly, most tabloids actually make the majority of their profits through cover price. This makes them unusual compared to most other newspapers, which rely more on advertising, but the advertising-cover price split in profits varies widely between publications. Continue reading
More questions from a student that I’m publishing as part of the FAQ section:
1. If News Corp starts charging for news stories, do you think readers would pay or they would just go to different newspapers?
Both, but mostly the latter. Previous experiments with paywalls saw audiences drop between 60 and 97%. And you also have to figure in that a paywall will likely make content invisible to search engines (either directly or indirectly, because no one will link to them which will drop their ranking). Search engines are responsible for a significant proportion of visits (even the Wall Street Journal receives a quarter of its traffic from Google). Still, some people will always pay – the question is: how many? Continue reading