Feeds

Murdoch's paywall: The end of the suicide era?

Staggering on could count as success

Build a business case: developing custom apps

News International is offering a glimpse of its revamped Times and Sunday Times newspaper sites, before they disappear behind a paywall in four weeks' time. Murdoch's move has been greeted with a lot of angst from people who never pay for anything - the Kumbaya crowd - but also criticism from rivals who, hypocritically, secretly hope he'll succeed.

Then there's people for whom the word 'Murdoch' produces a Pavlovian response - he's the pantomime villain hate-figure Guardian readers use to frighten their children if they're naughty. Or maybe children evoke him to frighten their Guardian-reading parents. Still, the move is interesting for a bunch of reasons, and worth looking at dispassionately.

Defining 'success' here is problematic - and something nobody seems to be able to agree upon. We do know the parent group News Corporation lost $3.4bn in its last full financial year, so Murdoch's appetite for appeasing people who'd never pay him a penny is understandably wearing thin. While the daily Times has never made money, and has been used as a competitive battering ram, the Sunday Times is the cash cow that's now (apparently) making a loss. Something had to give.

The Times site design junks the camp pastel-shades and generous white space that were fashionable in 2006, when it was last revamped. It now looks a lot more like a professional newspaper than a blog, and if there's a criticism, it's that the design could look even more like a newspaper. Scroll down just once and you're into multimedia featureland - for some reason, the op-eds appear halfway down the page, and feel like the footer - before the sections news reappears.

Click to enlarge (1.4MB)

(You need to view it in portrait mode, the default for the iPad, natch, to do it justice.)

The Daily Mail on the other hand, has no doubts about what you want. There are no multimedia features - slide shows, live chats, podcasts or video reports - just a relentless display of Mail news, with the thrills for provincials downplayed in favour of showbiz cellulite. It's quite a brilliant formula, and very successful: no paper cares less about cultivating a New Media Strategy. It just bungs it out at minimal cost.

The new-look Sunday Times, appropriately enough, looks much more like an upmarket magazine. Unfortunately it buries its historical strength for breaking news. Again, it feels as if it's optimized for portrait view, and works much better if you swivel your monitor 90 degrees.

In a move also likely to be welcomed, the new Times sites will not allow anonymous or even pseudonymous comments - you must use your real name. Or work a bit harder on your pseudonym. The editors justify this by pointing out that anonymous comments don't encourage a community, which is hard to argue with. But many of the best contributions on boards, lists and now forums have come from the ranks of the pseudonymous, so it's harsh.

The sites are also highly unfriendly to grazing readers. Google will be blocked, and incoming links merely point to the paywall. Most sites, such as the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times, offer a teaser, and a ladder up the paywall. This just seems plain daft. And surprisingly, there isn't a great deal of unique content. The new Times designs, obviously for a paysite, dispense with advertising altogether.

So much for the smart resdesign. But will it work financially?

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Assange™: Hey world, I'M STILL HERE, ignore that Snowden guy
Press conference: ME ME ME ME ME ME ME (cont'd pg 94)
Premier League wants to PURGE ALL FOOTIE GIFs from social media
Not paying Murdoch? You're gonna get a right LEGALLING - thanks to automated software
Online tat bazaar eBay coughs to YET ANOTHER outage
Web-based flea market struck dumb by size and scale of fail
Amazon takes swipe at PayPal, Square with card reader for mobes
Etailer plans to undercut rivals with low transaction fee offer
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
US regulators OK sale of IBM's x86 server biz to Lenovo
Now all that remains is for gov't offices to ban the boxes
XBOX One will learn to play media from USB and DLNA sources
Hang on? Aren't those file formats you hardly ever see outside torrents?
Class war! Wikipedia's workers revolt again
Bourgeois paper-shufflers have 'suspended democracy', sniff unpaid proles
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.