The Times have unveiled their new look website. And as I expected it looks just like a newspaper. In fact, I would say that it has perfected the transfer from newspaper to news website. It has clear navigation, a well structured homepage and all the features you would expect from a news site that expects you to pay £1 for entry.
It has also promised an abundance of extra features:
- you can have a web-chat to the journalist
- personalise your news feeds
- explore rich galleries full of digital multimedia content
- use your real name to comment
All very good – except that there is absolutely nothing here worth paying for. There is nothing new – you can already:
- speak to journalists using Twitter
- use Flickr to explore news events pictorially and Youtube to explore them in film
- personalise your news feed using Google reader or any other RSS reader
- and what is so great about using your real name to comment anyway (which you can already do on any other website).
The problem with their strategy is that there is nothing that they can actually do to mark this landmark moment for paid content. They have taken the best bits of the Guardian website and made them look a bit better.
The website is providing more space on the homepage for opinion and comments, and looks to be hoping to involve the readers more – but they have forgotten that they have locked all this discussion behind a paywall. It is like the developers have learned from the advent of social media, tried to use it to benefit their site, but ignored the fact that charging for this discussion isn’t very sociable at all.
What I think this website will show is how futile Murdoch’s attempts to forcefully bring his old media models into the internet actually are. The way consumers are adapting to the way news is presented is causing a small revolution. We are exploring new possibilities and discovering how best to use these new tools in an open and free environment. And it is this freedom that will crumble the pay-walls at their foundations.