Times paywall is a “foolish experiment” that won’t last, says Wikipedia founder

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, described The Times paywall as a “foolish experiment” that “would not last” and predicted that Rupert Murdoch would be forced to give up on the idea.

Wales was speaking during an interview at Brand Republic’s Hammersmith offices this afternoon – where he was talking about the launch of the London office of Wikia, the commercial venture from Wikipedia’s Wales that is home to the likes of Lostpedia, and the appointment of Richard Yu most recently of IGA Worldwide as European sales director of Wikia.

“I think it’s not going to last, I think they will give up,” Wales said who added that while he could see paywalls continuing to work for the Wall Street Journal and FT.com he saw no future for it in the cases of commodity news sites such as The Times.

He said as an opinion former and influencer he would think twice about writing for the paper if what he said could not be shared via social media.

“I would rather write [an opinion piece] where it is going to be read,” he said. He said putting opinion pieces behind paywalls made no sense. The Times has already lost bloggers since it erected its paywall.

He gave a recent example of a question he asked Lord Browne, the former BP CEO, at an event. He asked how he would have handled the gulf oil spill differently. Although Browne would not be drawn, the question Wales asked was reported by The Times.

When Wales tweeted it people responded that they could not read story and quickly stopped sharing.

“The Times had made itself irrelevant. It could not be tweeted and it could not be picked up by the blogs.

“No one is talking about it [The Times], I don’t think it will work,” he said.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again – The Times paywall is anti social media. Its paywall just, as Wales says, removes it from the paper from the conversation. And no one is talking about it. Shame.

However, although it is still very early, Wales said he saw potential in the apps business where “a successful micro payment market” has emerged and points to a possible future for paid content away from the open web.

Wales said he had would have no qualms about paying for the New York Times on an Apple iPad and said he was already a fan of the paper on Amazon’s Kindle device.

He said like a lot of people who own  iPhones he thought nothing about paying a dollar or so for an app where the key to success is the one click ease of purchase as much as the content.

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