Monday, July 19, 2010

What’s Really Going on Behind Murdoch’s Paywall?

by Michael Wolff
Rupert Murdoch is trying to make news at the Times and Sunday Times in London�but he�s not reporting on it. Will his paywall work is the biggest story in the media business, and it would be quite a journalistic coup to document the progress, or lack thereof, that�s being made in trying to convince a skeptical world to shell out 2� ($3) a week for what�s heretofore been free.

He is not reporting on himself because even less than most news outlets, Murdoch outlets have no objective sense when it comes to their own interests (or the boss�s interests), or willingness to ask questions which the boss might find uncomfortable, or penchant for anything but the party line. The news from News Corp. is always snarlingly good�even when it is very bad.

My sources say that not only is nobody subscribing to the website, but subscribers to the paper itself�who have free access to the site�are not going beyond the registration page. It�s an empty world.

The wider implications of this emptiness are only just starting to become clear. A Murdoch and Fleet Street veteran with whom I�ve been corresponding about the paywall reported to me on his recent conversation with an A-list entertainment publicist: �What was really interesting to me was that this person volunteered a blinding realization. �Why would I get any of my clients to talk to the Times or the Sunday Times if they are behind a paywall? Who can see it? I can't even share a link and they aren't on search. It�s as though their writers don't exist anymore.��

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