Paywalls: The Times Vs The New York Times, social media Vs anti-social media
There’s a good piece on the Wall Street Journal looking at how publishers are devoting more time to analysing their reader’s social media habits as they get more and more traffic via social sources.
As I read this I was reminded that yesterday I was accused of being overly negative about News International and The Times paywall. Not true. I don’t have a problem with their paywall: it’s just the way they have done it – hermetically sealing the paper off from the social web and stopping its content from being shared in anyway whatsoever.
That’s where the issue is. So to be clear: I’m pretty certain that paywalls in one form or another are essential for the long term future of journalism. The Times has good journalism and writers – words that deserved to be shared and no doubt in (some cases) to be paid for.
Look what happened last week. Yes that’s right I’m talking about the great Times paywall collapse of 10/10, 1530hrs. Okay so not a collapse, but a spot of routine IT maintenance. After I tweeted about it there was a frenzy of social activity, a mass of tweeting and blogging.
Notable in all that was the tweet from Times writer Caitlin Moran: “Scream! Apparently the Times paywall has just fallen down! Quick! Read all my articles”.
That tweet, highlighting the lack of ability to share in anyway or even get a taster of an article (try before you buy?), was I thought telling.
Compare this to the other Times – the New York Times. It is ironic that the paper that Rupert Murdoch is battling in America via the Wall Street Journal should be the next major world newspaper to join his Times of London with a paywall.
But the strategy being pursued by the New York Times is different quite different. It is pursing an inclusive and “social strategy” and it underscored that last month by announcing that it was adding the ability to login to its site via Facebook.
It wants to ensue that when its metered paywall does go up that it remains part of the social conversation. You will be able to read some articles, as with the paywalled Financial Times, see excerpts for the rest and share its content socially.
The Times on the other hand is not part of the conversation. You can see or share nothing unless you subscribe.
And because of that the tweets you see most often when it comes to The Times are something along the lines of “would share but damned paywall”.
I don’t see why they have done it that way and I’m sure it is barrier to higher subscriber levels.
Take a second and look at the WSJ. Another News Corporation paper. It has a paywall, it had one long before the Times, and even if you are not a subscriber you can still get to an article, read an extract, and still share it.
I don’t understand why The Times have eschewed that approach in favour of an anti social media one (unless Murdoch and News Corp are planning to de-Google and de-social that site along the lines of The Times).
I started this post talking about a piece I’d seen tweeted on the WSJ. I went onto read that. One of its key points was that 42% of social-networking users “regularly or sometimes get their news through social-networking sites, according to a report released this week by the Pew Media Center”.
That is telling some publishers that “they are better off trying to reach users where they are congregating than trying to corral them on their site”.
I don’t know if that is the answer, but I am pretty sure that social media is the most significant thing to happen to the web since Web 2.0 and to cut yourself off from that makes no sense. It swims against the tide and fights the zeitgeist.
If anyone from News International would like to write and tell us why they are pursuing this particular strategy then, of course, we’d love to hear from them.
Until then we will have to wait for News International release data telling us how its paywall is doing.