Online commenters, perhaps unsurprisingly, welcomed Guardian editor’s stance on paywalls – but not everyone is convinced
On the whole, the Twitterati seem pleased by Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger’s Cudlipp lecture, but it could be argued that those on the web would say that, wouldn’t they?
Now Michael Wolff, Murdoch watcher that he is, declares: “The Guardian Smacks (in Its Way) the Times and Murdoch”.
Wolff’s argument is that The Guardian stands to benefit from serious rivals going behind paywalls. And that “the free web, with its ultimate integration of all content, represents a change in the nature of information itself. Newspapers cannot reasonably, or sensibly, cut themselves off from the wealth of other free information sources.”
“Up until yesterday, no reputable newspaper has truly articulated the reasons for staying free, nor dedicated itself to this model. Vowing to stay free, the Guardian becomes something of a spoiler. It is not outlandish to assume that the New York Times will lose as much as 90% of its traffic, with the Guardian scooping up a tidy piece of that. The Times no longer sees itself in a position to proselytize for its brand and its left-liberal authority; the Guardian, an inveterate proselytizer, may suddenly have the field to itself.”
On the personality front Wolff adds:
“Murdoch would … with some anxious attention bring up Rusbridger, who can seem like a Delphic and mysterious character. Murdoch did not know quite what to make of Rusbridger and his internet ambitions, seeing him as something quite different from a newspaper man, at least one in the Murdoch mold. He did not insult Rusbridger, as he does most of his competitors, but he didn’t quite regard him as someone he might ever want to be alone with either: “Kooky,” was his description. “And what’s with the way his hair falls in his face?” Murdoch asked once, scowling in his dark way, about Rusbridger’s bangs and mop-top. “How old is he? He looks like a kid.”
(Some of you may wish to insert your own Harry Potter jibe here).
Lest I appear to be obsessed by Wolff or only reporting support for my boss, there is criticism too:
Evan Rudowski responds on paidContent (owned by Guardian Media Group):
“Along with Jeff Jarvis (whom, unsurprisingly, he’s hired as a columnist), Rusbridger is quickly becoming one of the leading opponents of the paid content strategy … he keeps arguing against the straw man of paywalls … And because he’s gone so far out on a limb, it will be that much harder for the Guardian to climb down and try new things … he is offering no new business ideas, and his current model is broken. So instead of pondering, and arguing unnecessarily against the false construct of ‘paywalls’, he’d be better off getting on with finding some new revenue streams.”
Plenty of others point to GNM’s £100,000-a-day losses as evidence that the advertiser-only model has failed.
And finally: Former UKPG deputy editor turned blogger Jon Slattery reports: “Lady Cudlipp thanked Rusbridger after his speech for introducing the Berliner-sized Guardian because it perfectly fitted the bottom of her parrot’s cage. That’s something guardian.co.uk can never do.”