The Great Paywall of News Corporation

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China’s ‘Great Firewall’ stops Chinese internet users from accessing sites deemed to be not in the best interest of the Chinese Government. News Corporation now has its own ‘Great Wall’, the ‘Great Paywall’ in a bid to engage readers and a generate new revenue schemes as the digital era takes hold.

News International, the UK newspaper arm of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation announced over the weekend that The Times and the Sunday Times will begin charging for access to its websites. Following an initial trial period in May where users can use the service for free, News International will charge 1 pound (AUD$1.60) for a day’s access and 2 pounds (AUD$3.20) for a week’s subscription.

The daily payment, according to the UK’s Guardian Newspaper, will include access to both sites, whilst the weekly subscription will also include an e-paper and new applications, presumably for portable mobile devices.

News International Chief Executive, Rebekah Brooks, said “This is just the start. The Times and the Sunday Times are the first of our four titles in the UK to move to this new approach. These new sites, and the apps that will enhance the experience, reflect the identity of our titles and deliver a terrific experience for readers. We expect to attract a growing base of loyal customers that are committed and engaged with our titles.”

The question on many people’s lips is will this subscription model work when people have been accessing news content free. Not only this but News Corporation will still have to compete with news giants such as the BBC and ABC who will continue to offer their content for free.

Apart from the Australian Financial Review and Financial Times there are very few papers that have a pure paid content access scheme online. According to Forrester Research’s Nick Thomas, the Financial Times have found that only around 121,000 of its 1.9m registered users, are paying subscribers. That’s just 6.4% of registered

Murdoch is entering untested waters for a standard daily.

According to audit statistics from ABCe The Times’ daily user count online is 1.22m. According to the Guardian Online if only 5% of daily users convert to the new system that would bring in 1.83 pounds (AUD$2.99m) if those users bought a 1 pound (AUD$1.60) pass.

The launch of new tablet computers from various manufacturers and other factors such as the increasing speed of broadband across the globe, we are likely to see more newspaper publishers construct a paywall around their valuable content. In much the same way and Mediaweek Magazine in Australia operate on a subscription based model.

Rupert Murdoch’s News International has taken a step forward for the industry by creating a paywall for its two major UK titles and taking the subscription model to the broader market rather than an exclusive domain for niche media.

No doubt News Corporation executives in the US, Australia and other markets will be watching carefully as to whether the new model is successful.

Should the paywall succeed a new revenue stream will be found positioning newspapers to survive and hopefully succeed in the new digital age.

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