Monday, 21 December 2009

In support of the Ocker..........

In 1969 a brash Aussie took over The Sun newspaper and changed the face of British journalism, for good or ill.
This "Dirty Digger" was derided and scorned by media pundits and the Establishment and his paper branded a "shit sheet" and a "six month wonder".
Rupert Murdoch now faces similar derision and naysaying from the pundits, self-styled"experts" and Establishment figures for his decision to set up a paywall for his online products.
"It won't work, " they bleat. "No-one will put up with it," they cry. "Everything on the Internet should be free," they wail.
Well I say fuck them, I hope Murdoch succeeds, not least for the fact it will secure jobs in journalism for a long, long time.
After all, if our websites really can make as much money as our paper products they will have to be treated far more seriously than the one-man-band operations many of the big "web is the future" corporations are running now.
If anyone can do it Murdoch can and, if he does, you can guarantee all of the whiney bitches who are knocking him now will jump right on board.
My concern is how to get Joe Punter to stick his hand in his pocket every time he wants to view a story or indeed pay a subscription to one or more newspaper sites.
I like the idea of micro payments. How about one pence an article?
It appears to be small beer at first but on a concerted web search session you can soon rack up the cash.
Twenty articles a day and you have hit the cover price of the Sun.
Or double it, treble it even and you are still only talking about three pence a click.
Offer a daily unlimited access for a discounted paper cover price to reflect the lack of printing, paper and distribution costs on the web.
Monthly and yearly subscriptions offering archive search, exclusive offers and articles can be available at even heavier discounts.
Grouped products, ie all News Ints libraries globally, available at seriously low prices. Lexis Nexis charges a fortune for its newspaper cuttings service and gets hundreds of thousands of subscribers.
It is not beyond the realms of possibility to create a similar system for much less cash
The real problem comes with the copying of articles onto other web-sites, blogs, forums etc.
I think this has to be tackled head on with an extremely aggressive team of lawyers stamping down hard on plagiarism and cut and paste merchants. The cost initially would be large and, yes, there would always be those "freedom fighters" out there determined to buck the trend but overall it could have an effect. Super injunctions, anyone?
Google alerts and other links go straight to the site and a charge is made per link, with some of that fee going to the original forwarding site.
Internet geeks will have a whale of a time with this "censorship" but ultimately news costs cash to produce.
If all you want on the web is a bunch of navel gazers commenting on comments that other commentators have made then carry on arguing about paying for your news feed.
Without cash we journalists stop doing what we do because we get fired.
Forget the rather ridiculous notion of citizen journalism taking over because it is a fallacy to believe your average punter would bother to do what we do on a daily basis for shag all.
There are some great hobbyists out there but the majority write libellous, biased chod or shit about what they did on their holidays.
And tell me those hobbyists wouldn't love to start making some cash for what they do.
I think the single biggest obstacle facing pay walls is not an unwillingness to pay for news but it's the method of payment.
If you could click on a link to a story that automatically debited your bank or online account by one pence, would you really umm and aah about the cost. Probably not.
But you can guarantee you will not pull out your credit card and type in your number, address and other details in order to read about the latest upset in Emmerdale.
If the newspaper organisations can put aside their differences and create a universal payment system that allows one click debiting from an online cash account (something like Paypal would not be too far off the mark) with free vouchers offering significant initial funds to use those accounts, I think the plan to charge could just work.
After all if senior management had seriously thought about paywalls before deciding to give away the farm online in the first place would we really be having this discussion?


  1. dream, again? They never worked and never will, please forget it, really.

  2. I think that you're right about simplifying the mechanism for micropayment. It's a technical problem that needs to be solved. Unfortunately, Microsoft will probably offer the first decent solution, and of course it will be locked into its operating system and its web browser.

    The biggest problem, IMO, is that the media companies will probably attempt to set the price as high as they think that the market can bear. This is similar to the situation with the record companies who are offering a model in which they charge the same amount for product even though the distribution costs are far, far lower.

    They're fools really because the market for paid content is waiting to be developed. I wonder if there are any figures for the actual profit made per article in The Sun? I suspect it's very low, and this should be the starting point. If the paper was making 0.2p per article, why not charge that for the online copy? Short sighted greed.

    As for people who want everything to be free - the answer is the same as with other media: In what way is paid for content interfering with their utopian dream of citizen produced, crowd aggregated content? On what grounds do they object to paywalls?

    I dare say that in 50 years time, marketers will have a name for the phenomenon that emerged at the turn of the millennium in which consumers contrived daft rationalisations to explain why they shouldn't have to start paying for something that they once though of as free.

    Hmmm... I feel an article coming on...

  3. How much do readers pay per article in your paper?

    That is, cover price divided by number of articles. Throw in TV guides, weather, stars, crosswords etc.

    How much per piece?

    When you get your answer you might finally realise that your company has never made its money selling content.

    It sold an audience's attention to advertisers using woolly, unmeasurable metrics.

    Your problem is that that same con trick doesn't work online. Advertisers are no longer willing to accept not knowing what 50% of their spend worked.

    So you expect readers to just pick up the slack because your industry refuses to invest the time or energy to fix the broken business model.

    Ain't gonna work pal.

  4. How about an article on why local newspapers bother with video on their websites. What the fuck is the point? They take three days to fucking edit and they look shit. Complete waste of time and resources

  5. Commenters' questions unanswered = blog deleted from RSS. Bye!