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Pay-Per-View Online News

Robert Weedon | News | Friday 7th August 2009

Following a loss of 2 billion pounds in the last financial year, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, which publishes The Times, The Sun and the News of the World in the United Kingdom, is to begin charging for access to online newspapers as soon as it is practical. Murdoch stated "Quality journalism is not cheap...The digital revolution has opened many new and inexpensive distribution channels but it has not made content free. We intend to charge for all our news websites."

Although his claim that the News of the World constitutes "quality journalism" is debatable, whether this scheme succeeds or not will be an interesting experiment in testing the willingness of internet users to pay for original content. The internet is a place where the default expectation is that content is free - Internet 2.0 user-generated content reins supreme, and websites charging for access appear to be an endangered species - witness the "epic fail" of Friends Reunited, whose business model originally relied on subscriptions, at a time when Facebook, Myspace and Bebo were offering their services for free.

These days, the Internet is often the source for breaking news amongst the "next generation" of newspaper readers. Sure, an older generation will continue to purchase the daily printed version of The Times, but this is always yesterday's old news by the time it even reaches the newstand, something which in today's 24-hour rolling news environment is simply not acceptable for a generation connected by mobile internet.

Therefore, the plight of The Times and its subscription-only model will be interesting to observe over the coming months, but for my two-penny's worth (although access to articles will allegedly start at 5p each), this is surely a backwards step, and one that will probably damage the reputation of his Times brand, particularly if other newspapers fail to follow suit. RW



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