An article written by Ian Burrell in The Independent explains why the paywall concept should be accepted as a permanent fixture, whether it seems to be working or not. Trying to answer the question, "Has Rupert Murdoch's paywall gamble paid off," Burrell remarks that many wish the project well and hope it would be the "vanguard of a cultural shift that will save newspapers."
No one is sure if the Times' and Sunday Times' paywall is 'working' or not, as the websites in question are yet to make public any statistics. However, Burrell's article refers to WPP's Martin Sorrell's observation that "paywalls are essential, because we think giving away content for free, particularly if consumers value that content, makes no sense...consumers have to pay for content they value." Burrell also quotes George Brock, professor of journalism at London's City University and a former Times journalist, who sees an emerging trend towards paywalls.
However, Burrell notices that there is a certain level of "dismay among analysts, advertisers, publicists and even some reporters on the papers." Publicists told Burrell that clients are increasingly reluctant to give interviews to the Times, and advertisers, according to the article, are not very excited about disappearance of The Times and The Sunday Times from search engines. Burrell goes ahead to quote Rob Lynam of media agency MEC as having said, "We are just not advertising on it. If there's no traffic on there, there's no point in advertising on there," with reference to paywalled news sites.
Former Times editor Dan Sabbagh also expressed beliefs that journalists with News International are unhappy, since their audience size has been reduced. Despite this, he thinks the paywall idea can be made to work. "I don't detect any signs of [News International] being massively ruffled by the progress," Burrell quotes him as saying. "News is a long-term business, and they are going to stick at this."
New ideas are rarely received well; but how long will it take for readers to accept the paywall? Will they ever? Will it take adoption by many more papers to make it a viable option?
Source: The Independent