Tag Archives: Paid for content

Open letter to Rupert Murdoch concerning The Sunday Times paywall

Dear Rupert Murdoch,

Last week, on 4 August, this website reported that you ‘gave the first hint’  that subscriber levels to The Times pay wall are ‘strong’.

Good on you.

But what you have done has really hacked me off. You may not care about this. After all, who am I?

Well, I am one of your customers.

I have been reading The Sunday Times for all my adult life and I still pay £2 a week for the privilege. My kids think this is heathen behaviour and a complete waste of paper – especially as I don’t read half of it. The ‘Money’, ‘In Gear’ and ‘Home’ sections go straight in the orange bag.  In ‘Travel’, I read that naughty little article ‘Confessions of a Tourist’ and then chuck that out too. Such a waste of paper.

As I’m a cultured kind of guy, I read ‘Culture’, especially the book section, but I’ll come back to that.

By the way, I used to keep ‘Culture’ for a week to refer to the TV and Radio listings (sometimes returning to book reviews and other articles I glossed over on Sunday) but now I chuck it on the Sunday with the rest.

Ironically, this is thanks to you. Because not only do I buy The Sunday Times every week but I subscribe to Sky for TV, phone and broadband. And on my Sky HD+ box, it is much easier to see what programmes are coming up than it is in your Sunday Times ‘Culture’ section. So I bin it.

The sections I do read are the newspaper, ‘Review’, ‘Business’ and ‘Sport’ (even there, the ‘Cowes Week’ supplement went straight overboard). So, for years, I have paid for your products and been a loyal customer.

But last week there was an article in The Sunday Times about a medical condition in which I have a particular interest. I wanted to ‘save’ it on my computer in the special computer file I keep for this subject.

I looked the article up your website to see if I could save it electronically. No doubt, you will say this is illegal. But I feel I have paid for the article and, having paid up, the format in which I want to file it is my business.

Then I hit the pay wall.

Well, I am sorry. I have already paid for this content in your paper.And I deeply resent the fact that you are trying to extract even more money out of me for something I have already paid for. So what did I do?

I could have scanned in the article and saved it electronically but, before bothering to do this, I found the same subject on one of your competitor’s websites. They covered it quite well, actually, and they didn’t charge me to access it (so I’m thinking of transferring to their newspaper too).

Anyway, I think I have a better idea (or rather, on this site, an insight) which, on a one-off basis only, I am prepared to share with you for free. First, I have to declare an interest. I am a co-founder of two websites www.Lovereading.co.uk and www.Lovewriting.co.uk.

Lovereading reviews and recommends books and charges publishers to email this content to readers who have opted in to receive this service for the genres of books they have told us they are interested in.

Lovewriting doesn’t review and recommend books, but is a media channel where self-published authors pay us to promote their books on the site. To help these independent authors, we urge our 150,000+ Lovereading users to browse books on Lovewriting.

All Featured Books on both these websites have free Opening Extracts. Admittedly, compared to your empire, these are tiny businesses. However, because of what I have learnt, I can accuse you of being lazy.

Why don’t you use your Sunday Times website to find out from me the ‘sections’ of content that I am interested in and pay for on a weekly basis? Why don’t you unbundle your customers into their areas of interest rather than by media channel (newspaper, TV, digital etc)?

Why don’t you ask us if we would be interested in receiving digital content from your media channels in our individual areas of interest (e.g. books)?

Then you could charge advertisers to reach clearly defined audiences who you know, because they have told you, are interested in certain activities (books, cars, sport etc) and likely to buy the products that apply thereto.

Perhaps you could could do this across all your media channels and point your customers to ‘destination sites’, such as www.Lovereading.co.uk, which would offer them more in-depth coverage of their areas of interest.

This way, you can avoid hacking off previously loyal customers like me by asking us to pay twice for the same content.

Yours sincerely,

A Different Hat

PS – from Lovereading, I have learnt there are many other smart ways of monetising your newly refined and defined customers but, like you, I’m not going to give everything away for free am I?

I did enough of that in my last post.

http://community.brandrepublic.com/blogs/adifferenthat/archive/2010/08/12/open-letter-to-rupert-murdoch-concerning-the-sunday-times-paywall.aspx

Advertisements

Times Puts Some Ads Outside The Wall And On iPad As Web Display Reduces

Though they are often cast as distinct business models, advertising and paid content are not necessarily mutually exclusive – or are they?

Observations from Times Newspapers’ digital properties point to two different answers…

In one, The Times is now selling full-page display campaigns in to its iPad app, for which readers pay £9.99 per month. Campaigns spotted by paidContent:UK are for IBM and Lloyds TSB, occupying four pages each in Monday’s third edition. Each includes a video overlay containing the companies’ existing TV ads.

The Financial Times had made its iPad edition free for two initial months thanks to a big headline sponsorship from watchmaker Hublot, but The Times is using iPad to combine both payments and ads, as newspapers do.

Times Newspapers had gone in to its new paid website strategy saying it would continue running ads on the Times and Sunday Times websites despite introducing reader charging. Indeed, its commercial team has promised advertisers “large impactful formats”….

But, in fact, what’s happened is the number of ads has reduced dramatically from when Times Online was freely available. Apart from spots for Virgin Media (NSDQ: in Sport and Tavarnello wine in Style, display slots in key website sections are so far mostly occupied by promotions for Times services themselves.

In their place, one thing that is clicking increasingly is a new spin on an old kind of sponsorship – paid editorial

The Times and Sunday Times sites are running a series of sponsored features and site-lets for Accenture, Courvoisier, Alfa Romeo, Chevrolet and ICIS, each apparently the online extension of a recent paid supplement…

But (and this is interesting) these advertorials are not behind the paywall. The Chevrolet campaign, for an outdoorsy new 4×4, even exists on an external domain name from the main Times site altogether, CoolGlamping.co.uk. Meanwhile, the Accenture campaign is actually for a Business news section called Need To Know, which, despite being presented in navigation as content, is also outside the wall.

One theory about The Times’ recent strategic shift is that the whittling down of its audience to a handful of paying customers would default advertisers’ addressable market to a self-selected group of wealthier readers, with a higher inclination to buy stuff. A contrary theory had been that, actually, advertisers just want scale and would hate losing mass appeal…

Whatever; why would advertisers want to restrict viewing of their ads only to paying readers?

The reduction of conventional web display ads from the Times Online days may suggest advertiser concern at the smaller audience – but it may also be possible for The Times to make some of it up with big-hitting sponsorships from premium brands, and by jumping aboard the nascent iPad advertising rush.

http://paidcontent.co.uk/article/419-times-puts-some-ads-outside-the-wall-and-on-ipad-as-web-display-evapora/

GNM’s Brooks: Times to keep 10% of readers would be ‘breathtakingly successful’

Publishers looking to paywalls, mobile or the iPad to singularly replace lost print revenues are set to be disappointed, according to Guardian News & Media’s Tim Brooks.

“There is no silver bullet,” warned the 52-year-old managing director who is, like the rest of the industry, following News International’s paywall experiment with great interest. But, he believes, unlike this week’s reports that claimed The Times retained two-thirds of its online traffic, actual readership is likely to settle at a fraction of that.

Brooks said: “We did our own calculations around paywalls in the early part of last year and the indications we’ve had is that the assumptions we put into our model are actually similar to the assumptions that they’re working on.” Prior to erecting the paywall, John Witherow, editor of The Times, appeared to be under no illusions when he admitted it could cost the brand more than 90% of its audience. But Brooks said “to keep 10% would be astronomically brilliant”. He explained: “If you think about click-through rates and you think about conversion rates on click-through rates, and that’s what marketing people are used to dealing with, and then you multiply that by an order of magnitude for the fact that you’ve got a strong brand like The Times. 10% would be breathtakingly successful.”

GNM’s leader has tried to avoid being drawn on the actual number he believes his rival is looking at, but goes on to use the example of evaluating the loss of 95% of readership. Brooks suggested the Murdochs have a more ambitious strategy in mind than generating online subscriptions and pointed to James Murdoch’s MacTaggart Lecture last summer, in which he stated his belief that there’s only one media market now. e also mentioned News Corp’s move to buy the 61% of BSkyB it does not currently own as soon as David Cameron came to power. He said: “You can see a picture that they may be painting of the future where they have a sort of ‘walled garden’ of Sky / News [Corp] wholly-owned content offerings, including their newspapers.”

 The Guardian remains open to paywalls

For his part, Brooks remains decidedly pragmatic about the possibilities around paywalls. Unlike The Guardian’s editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger, there’s no talk of Rupert Murdoch “sleep walking to oblivion” or philosophical musings about the “democratisation of the web”. For Brooks, the equation just doesn’t currently fit with GNM’s goal. He said: “We looked at the difference it will make to our net revenues, and we looked at the loss of over 90% of our audience for the gain of a very small percentage of additional revenue.

 “For News [International], journalism is a means to an end, and the end is profit. For us it’s different, journalism is our end. “It’s not a means to anything… and you would need very powerful journalism arguments for us to close our journalism off from 95% of people who are accessing it currently.” Interestingly, this altruism does not appear to extend to GNM’s other outlets, including the newspaper itself or its iPhone app, which achieved more than 100,000 downloads in its first 10 weeks and, at a cost of £2.39, raked in more than £240,000.

 Brooks reasoned it is because of the open nature of the web: “You have to think about the nature of the platform that you’re trading on. So if you think about newspapers, typically, it is a closed platform. “That is one reason why we felt confident about charging for our iPhone app, the habit of paying for things through iTunes is an established habit.”  But those who believe that the Guardian is somehow a devout champion of an open, free internet should take note. If expectations were to shift, GNM’s leader has no qualms in changing direction.

 Noting Google’s trialling of “newspass”, a system that promises micro-payments as well as long-term subscriptions through a friction-free paywall, Brooks admitted: “If the ecology of the system changes, we’ll change our behaviour. We’re not King Canutes here. “We just believe at the moment, people don’t expect to pay for things on the web, by and large won’t pay for things on the web, and we’re not a big enough animal to change people’s behaviour.”

 http://www.brandrepublic.com/bulletin/brandrepublicnewsbulletin/article/1017422/gnms-brooks-times-keep-10-readers-breathtakingly-successful/

Clay Shirky: ‘Paywall will underperform – the numbers don’t add up’

His predictions for the fate of print media organisations have proved unnervingly accurate; 2009 would be a bloodbath for newspapers, he warned – and so it came to pass. Dozens of American newspapers closed last year, while several others, such as the Christian Science Monitor, moved their entire operation online. The business model of the traditional print newspaper, according to Shirky, is doomed; the monopoly on news it has enjoyed ever since the invention of the printing press has become an industrial dodo. Rupert Murdoch has just begun charging for online access to the Times – and Shirky is confident the experiment will fail.

“Everyone’s waiting to see what will happen with the paywall – it’s the big question. But I think it will underperform. On a purely financial calculation, I don’t think the numbers add up.” But then, interestingly, he goes on, “Here’s what worries me about the paywall. When we talk about newspapers, we talk about them being critical for informing the public; we never say they’re critical for informing their customers. We assume that the value of the news ramifies outwards from the readership to society as a whole. OK, I buy that. But what Murdoch is signing up to do is to prevent that value from escaping. He wants to only inform his customers, he doesn’t want his stories to be shared and circulated widely. In fact, his ability to charge for the paywall is going to come down to his ability to lock the public out of the conversation convened by the Times.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/jul/05/clay-shirky-internet-television-newspapers

Editorial Comment

If Murdoch wants to turn The Times Online into a wierd version of a paid for subscription only news sheet let him. The Times (aka Thunderer) made its name bringing the news to the masses, telling people news it was scared to hear but needed to know (Russell in the Crimean War) (George Steer’s report of the bombing of Guernica in the Spanish Civil War) (Robert Fisk’s reports on brutality in Northern Ireland in the 80’s) – some of the last centuries greatest work. However, as Murdoch said himself “I did not come all this way not to interfere” (ref: John Simpson ‘Unreliable Sources’ p502 Macmillan Press) – and he is doing it again. How can The Thunderer ever set the news agenda of the nation (and the world) if it is only ever read by a small fee paying elite? If it wants to make tips on the stock market then fine, sell & charge for it online. If it wants to be relevant to Britain it needs to speak to everyone

UK Times’ Traffic Has Dropped, But Nobody’s Gaining

The Times’ and Sunday Times’ share of UK newspaper web visits nearly halved from 4.37 percent to 2.67 percent in the month since it introduced new sites with a registration wall, according to Hitwise, which monitors the clicks of eight million UK users. But it has now fallen to 1.81 percent since it started redirecting readers of the old, free Times Online site last week. Users will have to pay to register from the next few weeks. The Times+ sign-up page is now the most clicked-to page from The Times site, taking 17.6 percent of downstream traffic. After visiting Times+, a quarter of visitors head back to The Times site itself. Telegraph.co.uk is proving the next most popular destination for people who turn away… But there are no major beneficiaries from The Times’ move. FT.com and Sun Online each increased share following the registration wall’s erection, according to Hitwise’s figures – but only to levels they had enjoyed previously

http://paidcontent.co.uk/article/419-times-traffic-has-dropped-but-nobodys-gaining/

The new Times and Sunday Times go live – paywall means see all or see nothing – no aliases on the comment section either

The new websites of The Times and Sunday Times went live Tuesday for a free trial period ahead of the adoption of an all-or-nothing paywall. The sites will be free to view to those who register for around a month, after which all content except the homepages will go behind a paywall, rendering it invisible to search engines. This paywall big bang is far more ambitious than existing paywalls at titles such as the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal which allow limited free access and let casual browsers to view articles via search engines like Google. In another radical departure, the sites will only allow subscribers to comment under their real names. Those wishing to comment anonymously will have to make a case to editorial staff for doing so. For the Sunday Times it will be the first time the title has had a standalone website. Around 35 additional staff have been taken on to produce thesundaytimes.co.uk, which is more visual and magazine-like than thetimes.co.uk – that site more closely resembles the print edition. This week’s launches will mark the first step in News Corporation proprietor Rupert Murdoch’s bid to charge for content across all his newspaper titles. The Sun and News of the World are set to follow later this year.

http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=1&storycode=45494&c=1

The Times and The Sunday Times unveil new-look websites

The Times and the Sunday Times have today unveiled their new-look websites ahead of their conversion next month to a paid-for access model. The revamped websites, Thetimes.co.uk and Thesundaytimes.co.uk will replace the combined site, Timesonline.co.uk.

The move marks the first time The Times newspaper brands have boasted separate sites and comes amid a battle among newspaper publishers to monetise their digital offerings. The websites will be accessible for registered users for an introductory four-week period, before the paywalls are put in place. Registered users must be 18 and over before they are permitted to access the sites.

The sites boast new features, which the titles believe will give them stand-out from rivals. These include live interviews on The Times site, and a fast-track booking site on The Sunday Times site. The two new websites have a more conservative look than the Times Online site, which will be phased out.

From 1 June, a charge of £1 a day or £2 a week will be introduced for access to both sites. Access to the digital services will also be included in the seven-day subscriptions of print customers to The Times and The Sunday Times.  Articles on The Times and Sunday Times’ sites will not appear in searches by Google and other search engines. The sites will only display their respective homepages and not the articles, to search engines.

News International has not disclosed specific subscriber targets, though it is undoubtedly prepared for a major drop in user numbers of its websites.  Payment for the sites is to be made by direct debit and the £2-a-week charge will auto-renew, which is not the case for the daily charge. James Harding, editor of The Times, said: “The site will include live interviews with the people who shape the news and exclusive video – giving readers the opportunity to get more from their favourite sections.  This is just the start. We will continue to add new features to ensure that the innovation that has been central to The Times for 225 years, continues into the future.”

Separately, Roger Alton, the former editor of the Observer and the Independent, is to join the Times as joint executive editor. Alton left the Independent last month (May) following its purchase by Alexander Lebedev, the Russian millionare.

http://www.brandrepublic.com/BrandRepublicNews/News/1005441/Times-Sunday-Times-unveil-new-look-websites/?DCMP=EMC-DailyNewsBulletin