Sunday, 28 March 2010

Sunday Times defends paywall move: 'Why the future of good news is not free'

The Sunday Times in a leader today defends its plan to introduce a paywall for its online content in June.
It says: "At present we are in the absurd position of charging people £2 for our newspaper while simultaneously offering the same content free online. The flawed logic was that internet advertising would pay for it. The recession has put a stop to that, so giving away expensive journalism is financially unsustainable and ultimately bad for us and our readers.
"At The Sunday Times we put an enormous amount of money and effort into producing the best journalism we possibly can. If we keep giving it away we will no longer be able to do that. Inevitably the spending will decline, and with it the quality of the journalism. We will no longer be able to let reporters pursue stories for weeks on end (our investigation of MPs’ lobbying has taken the Insight team eight weeks) or send correspondents to spend months in Afghanistan or Iraq. Such practices are expensive, and there is always a risk they will be unproductive.
"However, without this investment, the British public would see a steady fall in the quality and diversity of the information they receive and learn less about how they are governed. We have perhaps the most lively and competitive press in the world, but that has been possible only because it is based on commercial success.
"The decision to create a separate website for The Sunday Times is thus a significant development. It, too, is expensive and we have decided to charge £2 a week for access to our huge range of content and to that of The Times, which is also building a new website. We believe many readers will be prepared to pay this relatively small amount because they value our journalism and they understand that nothing of value is free.
"We acknowledge the risk involved when much other good journalism is still available free online. However, we believe that if we are transparent with our readers and explain the financial realities, they will support our move. Ultimately we think that other newspapers will follow, and that the only free content online will be of inferior quality or supplied by the BBC. Even that organisation is finally beginning to realise it should stop trying to become a publisher online, and is cutting back on its massive internet spending."
The leader concludes: "We are in the midst of a publishing revolution, and if we get our finances right, you, our valued readers, will benefit from a new golden age in which we can devote more time and money to bringing you the very best journalism in the finest traditions of The Sunday Times."
  • One of the posts reacting to the leader shows what newspapers are up against. Mark Minogue writes: "You say that quality journalism costs money, and I believe you. But if the internet is killing your revenues then the most blindingly obvious cost cutting measure is to reduce the overcapacity in the newspaper market by having fewer of them. Im one of the lost millions who no longer buys a newspaper. Why? because the internet hasnt just given me my news for free, its also given me a far greater choice; you are competing in the favourites list in my copy of Google Chrome not just with the Telegraph and Gaurdian but also with the New York Times, The Times of India and The Japan Times ... not too mention Al Jazeera, China Daily, Der Speigel, Il Messaggero, Le Monde ... then there's BBC, CNN .... well, you get the picture. Sorry peeps, but the future of news is free to the consumer, whether Mr Murdoch likes it or not." 

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