Dan Sabbagh, the Guardian's new head of media and technology, has drawn a distinction between the economic arguments surrounding paywalls and their impact on journalism.
Unlike some media commentators, he wasn't scornful of the figures just released by The Times and Sunday Times, claiming 105,000 customers have so far paid to go behind the papers' paywall. A further 100,000 people have a joint subscription to read the newspapers digitally and in print.
Sabbagh, speaking at a meeting of the NUJ's London Freelance Branch last night, described the figures as "not a bad start". He pointed out that Sky was dismissed as a joke when it started with a small subscriber base and cheap subscriptions, only for Rupert Murdoch to make it the most powerful media company in the UK.
He said the fragile state of newspapers, with sales averaging a fall of around 20 per cent every three years, meant that economically paywalls may be a good way to go.
But he also argued there was something compelling about the openness of the internet, the ability to link to other journalists and have a dialogue with a range of people.
He said signing up to the Times paywall meant you were entering "Timesworld" and "cut-off from the conversation" taking place on the rest of the web.
Sabbagh was bullish about the future of national newspapers in the UK, saying they were far more robust than in other European countries, like France and Italy. But he was pessimistic about the future of the country's regional press because of "disinvestment" in local newspapers and the impact that had on editorial quality.
Saturday Seven Up
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