All eyes are on Rupert Murdoch’s great paywall experiment? It’s the subject of my London Evening Standard column today.
It is also the subject of Philip Stone’s column today on the Follow the Media site. He writes: “Put yourself in Murdoch’s shoes and you could well ask yourself, ‘What do I have to lose?’ The Times and Sunday Times just announced horrific 2009 results, losing some £80m between them… So for those particular properties it doesn’t take a genius to see the current business model is smashed.”
Stone argues that “it’s about time someone had the guts to go ahead and really try it [charging for online content]… and the man with printer’s ink running through his veins is giving it a go… if he can succeed he might just save an entire industry, not just his own two newspapers.”
He speculates that if 5% of the current 1.2m daily visitors to The Times’s site (60,000) agree to pay the £2-a-week subscription, it will result in revenue of £6.24m a year. Then he writes:
So then the big question becomes why should someone pay to read The Times and The Sunday Times online when they can read The Guardian and other UK newspapers, let alone the BBC site, for free?
That one is not so easy to answer. The New York Times found with its Times Select system of a couple of years back that people were willing to pay to read some of their best columnists. Do the Murdoch newspapers have such columnists that are a ‘must read’?…
And that is going to be the deal-decider. What content will The Times and Sunday Times have that just can’t be found elsewhere for free?
After pointing out that the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal have successful pay models because people gladly pay for business and financial information, Stone suggests a “bundling” of Murdoch’s WSJ with The Times/Sunday Times.