Feeds

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

Staggering on could count as success

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

The paywall doesn't have to pay

It all depends on what you mean by 'success'. The size of the audience will shrink dramatically, but then as we pointed out here, much of the audience for a general purpose newspaper isn't really worth anything.

The Times is charging £2 a week for access. Some estimates put the amount of online advertising gathered by the Times at under £20m a year. So if 'success' means matching today's online ad revenue with online subs, then Murdoch needs about 175,000 people to suddenly acquire the habit of paying for stuff online.

This is... optimistic.

Click to enlarge for full page (1.2MB)

But maybe this isn't the plan; there are other measures of success. When the techno-utopian Web 2.0 crowd asked the newspapers to commit suicide by giving away everything for free, there was no need for the newspapers to pay any notice. Remember that the Times has an average of over 600,000 people giving it a pound a day, every day (Saturday's is £1.50), and from that you can start to build a business. Making up £20m in gross revenue is a lot easier from people who already pay you money. In fact, it requires about 50,000 more people (on average) to start paying for the daily Times to meet the revenues likely to be lost from going behind a paywall. Obviously there are several titles in play, and very obviously, we're talking about gross revenue not margin, and (in theory) margins are greater on the web (or should be).

Is finding 50,000 Times readers so difficult? The paper has lost around 80,000 paying customers since 2006, when it opted for the pastel colours, and expanded its web presence. Go figure.

The great paywall adventure may go wrong for all kinds of reasons: the stuff isn't as unique or compelling as News International thinks, perhaps, or the price is too high. As I said, the debate is coloured by the fact that Murdoch is a ritual hate figure for some people. Unfortunately this tends to affect people's judgement. Many more actually wish it would work, though they're loathe to admit it. And whatever else Murdoch may be, he certainly isn't stupid.

So perhaps 'success' here is 'not committing suicide' and merely involves getting people to pay real money for your real product. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Amazon says Hachette should lower ebook prices, pay authors more
Oh yeah ... and a 30% cut for Amazon to seal the deal
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
Nintend-OH NO! Sorry, Mario – your profits are in another castle
Red-hatted mascot, red-colored logo, red-stained finance books
Sonos AXES support for Apple's iOS4 and 5
Want to use your iThing? You can't - it's too old
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
Chips are down at Broadcom: Thousands of workers laid off
Cellphone baseband device biz shuttered
Feel free to BONK on the TUBE, says Transport for London
Plus: Almost NOBODY uses pay-by-bonk on buses - Visa
Twitch rich as Google flicks $1bn hitch switch, claims snitch
Gameplay streaming biz and search king refuse to deny fresh gobble rumors
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.