There has been much debate and comment, mostly negative, about the ‘paywall’ that News International have erected around The Times and The Sunday Times.
You’ll note that The Sun and The News of the World haven’t gone the same way. I suspect this is because the people who actually buy these papers are not the same people who know what the Internet is.
Anyway, Caitlin Moran has written an interesting article, making the case for the paywall. Sadly, her piece is behind the paywall. So here it is:
All told, this is a marvellous job, and certainly better than anything I hoped for aged 10, when I presumed I would grow up to be – given my class and location – either a picket or a prostitute. Indeed, there is only one real downside to it: a certain kind of person who, on discovering which paper I am employed by, pulls what I can only describe as a “Guardian face”, and makes some disapproving comment along the lines of: “You must have to watch what you say, given who you work for.”
The presumption being that, at 9am every day, Rupert Murdoch walks into my kitchen, points a Taser gun at one of my children, and says: “G’day. Write ‘Gordon Brown is a bonk-eyed homosexual’ in the middle of your ‘wry’ column about zoos, or the kid gets voltage.” I mention all this merely in order to forestall any tiresome comments of “Of course, you would have to say that” following my next declaration, which is this: I THINK YOU SHOULD HAVE TO PAY FOR CONTENT ON THE INTERNET.
Yeah, that’s right. You heard me. The Times is putting up a big paywall, all over the dream of free global communication, and I like it. Despite being so left wing that I cried when I interviewed Tony Benn, and so laid back and groovy that I have, in my time, given a wasp a blowback, I am all for paywalls, prosecuting illegal downloaders, and generally getting all monetising on the internet’s ass. Why? Because the internet is currently split into two halves. The bit that’s making all the money is the bit selling holidays, dishwashers, weekly groceries and fake Viagra. It’s San Francisco during the Gold Rush over there. If you’re selling stuff on the internet – however tatty or unenvironmentally friendly it is – you’ve got it made.
Then there’s the half that makes no money at all – where you can download music, films, TV shows, photography and journalism for free. Because if you’re selling creativity on the internet – brilliant, complex or just plain entertaining visions – it seems you’re not supposed to charge. Or complain about it, either. When Lily Allen spoke up against downloading last year, the internet exploded with – mainly male, it has to be said – commentators, castigating her for wanting to get paid for her work. We’re at the odd point where it now seems reactionary for artists to want to earn a living from art. By contrast, the comparethemeerkat.com crew are driving around in a golden hovercraft, wiping their arses with fifties.
You can read the rest here.
It’s fair to say The Times has long been my newspaper of choice, be it online or dead tree.
The quality hasn’t always been consistent, and the political bias has often been not to my taste, but it’s the best of a bad lot.
A part of me expected that, when The Times went behind its paywall, The Telegraph would step up to the plate, to become the must-read centre-right news outlet. In fact, or at least as I see it, The Telegraph’s online operation has become markedly worse since then. It’s like they’ve practically embargoed actual journalism, and bought an RSS feed of tabloid trivia.
The Telegraph seems recently to have turned into the Daily Mail minus the upskirts and sweatstains.
So what other choices are there? The Independent? Well, no. Not really. Dreadful website, nauseating editorial line.
The Guardian? Give me strength.
Evening Standard? Well, Paul Waugh is good for Westminster stuff, but I prefer the FT Westminster Blog, and the Standard just a bit parochial.
The Financial Times, then. Well they’ve already gone down the paywall route, but with two important differences from The Times.
Firstly, you can register for free and read something like 25 articles a month before you need to pay anything. Thus I can still cite occasional FT articles in commentary on my blog. I can’t really do that any more with articles from The Times. Thus they don’t get the click-thru that exposes their advertisers to my readers.
Secondly, the FT blogs are not covered by the paywall. The Times are currently pulling down the shutters on their blogs.
I expect that, in the medium term, The Times will be forced to follow the FT’s example, to some degree, due to collapsing revenues.
In the meantime, £2 a week to read them. What does that £2 actually buy you? Well, now they’ve fixed the login niggles, the best newspaper site in the UK by a country mile. Also, the faint but real prospect of some of the journos actually engaging with commenters, now the freetards have been banished. The chance that our feedback will actually be entertained.
Because, as much as I’ve criticised the Telegraph, the Independent, The Guardian and The Evening Standard above, I have no right to complain because I don’t pay a damned thing for them.
Declaration of no interest whatsoever: I used to work for News International, until about 10 years ago. I now have no interest, financial or otherwise, in the company.