The Times Hides From The Internet

From June, Rupert Murdock is taking a risky gamble. He's not only hiding his newly designed news site behind a 'pay wall', but also getting it removed from Google (and others). In short - unless you know about it already, and you're prepared to pay for it, you won't see it (old site, new site - both devoid of any coverage of this at the moment).

This is important for a handful of reasons. It could turn out a number of ways, many of them are quite bad for News International. The most obvious thing that will happen is that you won't see the Times or the Sun in Internet search results any more. I suspect most people probably won't be too bothered about that ;-)

Secondly, the online readership of the Times will dwindle. It'll only be a few select people who honestly believe they're getting something from the Times that they can't get anywhere else. Personally, I think that's a tough one - a large proportion of daily news is reported by just about everyone, and then re-reported in umpteen free publications the next day. It's only the "big scoops" that differentiate one news source from another, and those sorts of stories just don't happen all the time. Even if you had the most elite investigative journalists in the world, and produced one scoop every week, that news isn't going to be of interest to everyone at the same time, and it is going to get re-reported by every other news source anyway.

Thirdly, with a sharp decline in online readership, the online costs of the Times are also going to shrink. This could result in an self-sustaining solution - just enough loyal subscribers to pay for the infrastructure of the site. I'm not sure how feasible that is, but it's certainly possible.

Lastly (and I suspect what's intended), other news sites may try the same thing. In theory, this could create a 'critical mass' of the primary news sources becoming 'pay walled'. If that were to happen, then you have competition on which one people want to use. However, it only takes one reputable news source to stay free (eg. the Guardian), and the whole system collapses. In fact, there's motivation to stay free - you'll scoop up all the roving news consumers, and their associated advertising revenues (as demonstrated by the Guardian, and their hugely successful online presence).

Personally, I don't see how this is going to be any great loss to the Internet, or any great gain to News International. However, it's true that Rupert Murdock is about a million times richer than I am, and he didn't get that way by being an idiot. I guess we'll just have to wait and see who's right about all this.

Submitted by coofercat on Thu, 2010-05-27 14:23