There has been a lot of angst, editorial and actual study recently of online media consumers only seeking news from sources that reflect their own pre-conceived political views and interests. If you’re ‘US liberal’ you bookmark MSNBC, read the Huffington Post hourly, love Maureen Dowd in the NYT, and when you have time peruse The New Yorker. As a Canadian ‘Liberal’ you might avoid anything other than the CBC, and in BC read The Tyee etc.
If you trend towards a conservative slant your first point of call for news in the US would be Fox, and in Canada The National Post – the point being there is a wealth of both accredited mainstream news online for free, and that like many people whose main news source is online, most users are not stuck in silos that somehow legitimize a certain world view. Online media users flip all over the place and read multiple sources on the same story.
Which is why the Times UK sticking to its plan of introducing a content paywall is perplexing. There is little in their main story sections that are unique, better sourced or written, than other publications (BBC, Guardian, ITV as other UK sources) – and special sections such as travel, business, sports, lifestyle (although I will miss Heston’s recipe and cooking column) are matched or bettered by other publications.
There is also a trend I note in my own media sourcing, and in clients and friends – that is clicking on news links shared by ‘friends’ within social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Those currently follow two trends – breaking news, and deep insight (investigative journalism) and often lead to new (to me) media sources which, if good, are bookmarked to a titled “News’ folder. That folder now contains over 100 media sources and publications, of which I hit around 40 per day, and each one at least once per week.
So what happens with the viral sharing potential of The Times UK as it goes behind a paywall? It dies. Someone with a subscription who shares a news story, photograph or video will simply lead people to a ‘pay-to-see’ page, or worse, half the story and pay to see the complete version. My bet is the current journalists and columnists for The Times – the ones with a reader base – will quickly find their viewership dropping, and they will be ripe for a move. See you in a year!
Bye Bye Times UK – you are off my bookmark list