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Those wonderful few of you reading this blog know one of my pet peeves is the debate over media paywalls. The assertion that placing a toll on access to general information will generate profits has already proven to be a failed business model, similar to placing a toll on a new bridge when there is a perfectly serviceable free bridge down the river. IT SIMPLY WILL FAIL. As noted in a previous post the Times UK initiated its paywall a few weeks ago, and the results are…thousands of ‘registered’ users (those who signed up for email news updates, and even advertising deals) are leaving – and this from Channel 4 News, a Murdoch property. The claim by News International that fewer paid online subscribers will result in an eventual profit flies in the face of the nature of the internet, and how media as a whole is rapidly changing. Social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, are fast becoming the news sources of choice – mainly as a simple human trait is to trust sources and stories recommended by friends. Denying that open link access kills the viral potential of single source articles, and the associated advertising.

Also good to remember – online access is not ‘free’. Consumers pay for cable/broadband lines into their homes; and a computer with software. Adding secondary costs for what is essentially open news from many other sources is simply not sustainable. Professionals can, and will, subscribe to specialized, narrow focus, niche services that provide unique insight – lawyers use Lexis/Nexis as an example, but the average web user seeking basic online news will not pay, and never will.



Enter the comparison to vegetables. On a shopping trip at our local supermarket the selection, quality and price of lettuce caught my eye. Now, this is early summer, and while the weather has been pathetic, more local and imported varieties should be available, and probably cheaper than winter – right? Not so for this high end chain. There were two types of lettuce – a pile of limp, dried out romaine, and equally horrific iceberg, that had a note ‘may contain herbicides’. The price was also diabolic. Well, I thought no salad tonight, but driving home we passed a neighbourhood farmers market where four local producers had (combined) eight varieties of lettuce – fresh, organic, with pedigree, served with a smile and far cheaper. Arriving at home, a neighbour had dropped off two heads of lettuce from her garden with a note “can’t leave it for the slugs, enjoy”. Seeking lettuce from a high end source was a disappointment. The journey ended up being better, and free.

Which is why the Guardian UK is enjoying the debacle – and good for them. They are only one of thousands, (what number to assign?) of general news websites that can offer coverage of headlines, and go further in-depth. Don’t like their slant, try CNN, BBC, CBC etc – you get the picture.

A warm welcome to guardian.co.uk for all former readers of the Times

Been booted out by the Times paywall? Allow us to introduce you to the Guardian’s website. Come on in – the more the merrier!

And a very warm welcome to all our readers from The Times. We’re very sorry you awoke to find you could no longer read your newspaper online without a credit card and we feel your pain.

We couldn’t get into the Times site either last week when it was supposed to still be free as the registration system had crashed. But we can help you through this trauma. Call it a belief in an open internet or care in the community if you like, but here at the Guardian we can offer everything you ever wanted from the Times – and more – for nothing.

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  1. July 3, 2010 at 10:21 AM

    Freemium lettuce for all! 😉

    Nice post, Mat – love the vegetables analogy. You’re lucky that you found a farm stand doing it cheaper, though. If you go to Moss Street Market, you pay $6 for a small bag of “designer greens,” too steep a price by half. Those are ideology salads, if you ask me: they’re for people who have committed to paying that much of a premium, just like some people (probably not enough to keep the Times going) are committed to paying a firewall premium for the news. The rest of us, though, will graze through our networks – and we’ll get a better diet out of it, too!

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