Rupert Murdoch is gambling by sending two more of his newspapers to the Great Paywall of the Internet, in his tireless effort to eek out a few extra pounds from his news syndicate. It's a gamble because these two British newspapers will replace Murdoch's TimesOnline.com which in February, according to Comscore experienced a 21 percent decline from last year.
This move follows the iconoclast's accusations last year that Google and other search engines were 'content kleptomaniacs' allowing users free access to his newspapers. At that time Murdoch threatened to remove his publications' stories from Google's search index, and now it looks like he is following through with his promise. At least in Britain.
According to a New York Times report, The Times and The Sunday Times of London will replace the TimesOnline as two separate sites charging readers a subscription fee in June. The new sites, www.thetimes.co.uk and www.thesundaytimes.co.uk, will be available at £1, or $1.48, for a day’s access or £2 for a week’s subscription. Payment will give customers access to both sites.
The Wall Street Journal, also owned by News Corp., The Financial Times and Newsday all charge for access. The New York Times has announced a plan to do so as well, but no clarity whether it will follow the 'Murdoch' model or if it will be something entirely different.
What is missing from Murdoch's flawed formula is 'added value' for the customer. If all Murdoch is providing the reader is 'his' content for a fee versus 'free' content from other news outlets, he stands to lose big time. What Mr. Murdoch should be spending more time Tablet Warsdeveloping is his relationships with the likes of Apple, HP and Dell to launch his paywall model in conjunction with their tablet roll-outs. The market, sometimes referred to as the 'Tablet Wars' is extremely competitive and is looking for partnership deals with the news media to distinguish themselves from the pack.
Apparently he has started the process with his Wall Street Journal at a rather high price point. The WSJ plans to charge $17.99 dollars a month for a subscription to the newspaper on the iPad. The electronic edition of The Wall Street Journal for Amazon's Kindle e-book reader costs $14.99 dollars a month.
The New York Times has also developed an iPad application and reported recently that advertisers have been spending heavily to buy advertising space on their app.
Other magazines and newspapers are planning to launch special editions for the forthcoming Apple iPad, with the support of millions of dollars in revenue from advertisers as well.
Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, said that he believed his company had successfully created “a third category” of devices that would sit between smartphones and laptop computers. What do you use when a laptop is too cumbersome and too powerful for your needs but a smartphone has too small a screen and is not powerful enough? His conclusion is the iPad fills that void.
So as Murdoch resurrects his 'paywall', the big question remains if he's the Pied Piper leading all those who follow off a precipice with no return, or if this cranky old Titan of the Tabloids is on to something? My bet is - for all his posturing, he's running a losing battle, and his Great Paywall of the Internet will go down as fast as he tried to erect it. But I look to you, the reader to voice your opinion. Vote in our Murdoch's Pirate POLL and let us know how you feel on this topic? (you can click on two selections if you like).