News Corporation in all out Paywall Onslaught

Digital SpyebusinessecommerceNews CorporationNews of the WorldPaywallPerez Hiltonsocial commercesocial mediaSunday TimesTimes+-

Following a paywall going up on The Times and Sunday Times earlier this year, News Corporation has just made the announcement that News of the World is going to have a paywall come October.


As I posted back when The Times was locked down, you need to have high value unique content for a paywall business model to work, and you have to get your pricing spot-on for customers to bite. Pricing is pretty much the same as for The Times - £1 per day or £2 per week - News of the World is really a Sunday paper, with other days of the week served by sister publication The Sun - so I’m not sure I understand the weekly access rate?

Like most of the world, I get most of my celebrity gossip from a slew of dedicated gossip sites - Perez Hilton and Digital Spy key among them. The press release says something about better access to picture and video media ..blah..blah..blah. Yet, surely the best way to access gossip - including pictures and video is in a linear stream of information - exactly like on the Perez blog.


News of the World admittedly does the very occasional celebrity expose - which is fine if you want to know what Katie Price is up to, or which footballer has now strayed, or which sportsman or official will accept a bribe - but that’s about it really. The exclusive is typically a matter of minutes only anyway - before other resources pick up on the story.


Much like with The Times, I cannot see the paywall being successful in this scenario, moreover, The Times is typically read by more affluent consumers, which certainly cannot be said of ’News of the World’ will its readership bear the cost - I really cannot see it happening.


I’m all for newspapers, magazines, journalists and columnists making money online, but there has to be a better way than this. There is so much competition in the area of celebrity gossip, that there will always be someone ready to plug the gap with free, sponsored content.


The other big issue is that if online subscriptions are going to work, there needs to be some sort of centralised ’passport’ system where you can pay or deal with just one agency, and get multiple access points for your subscription. Having to set up multiple subscriptions for every website you might use just won’t work.


A key point in all of this is also that News Corporation is being pretty unilateral, and as long as its competitors keep their sites unfettered, then there’s no competition at this level. We still don’t have conclusive numbers from The Times paywall experiment, but most industry insiders believe it has not been a success - why rush News of the World into the same arena? I check out News of the World every other Sunday or so, I would certainly not consider paying for access - I eagerly await to see what happens next ...

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