So the new paywall websites of the Times in the UK have gone live. They look mighty impressive (images here courtesy of Press Gazette). Will they work? A survey says 90 per cent won’t pay. Perhaps not, but anyone who is a fan of the Times is likely to be tempted by the additional content.
It got me thinking about whether good old Rupert might look home and think about doing the same Down Under.
And then I realised he simply couldn’t. The problem is the internet in Australia is terrible. Unless you are happy to pay through the roof for unlimited downloads, you normally have to settle for a cap. And most are truly rubbish (I’m currently suffering with a 2GB cap, which is really nothing).
What, you may ask, does that have to do with newspaper websites? Well judging by the Times preview there is a massive focus on multimedia, be it exciting photo galleries or video news. Added to that are live Q&A and other interactive features.
All fun and games but guaranteed to eat at your download limit quicker than readers flip to the Beeb’s site. Aussies are unlikely to want their precious download limit to be destroyed by reading a newspaper online every day.
So where does this leave Murdoch? If his paywall is a success (and that is still a big IF) then one imagines he will want to roll it out elsewhere, particularly America. But will we reach a situation where users of UK Murdoch sites are paying for content, while users of Aussie Murdoch sites get theirs for free. And what about the ex pats who want to read about news at home via the Times? One can’t imagine any will want to sign up given the free alternatives – if your download limit is going to be eaten, you don’t want to pay extra for it to happen.
It will be very interesting to see News Limited’s move in Australia after the paywall experiment in the UK…