Archives for posts with tag: Paywall

With the ominous SOPA act looming menacingly over the internet it is more important than ever to seek out and support progressive methods of getting artists and writers the money they deserve.

A stand-out service that I have joined is a social micropayment service called Flattr.  You create an account, choose a monthly amount of money to add to a pot (minimum 2 euros) and then click the Flattr button on webpages you like to share the money with the authors.

Kind of like tipping – the idea is simple, brilliant and completely in line with the ethos of the internet. I’ve recently noticed the Flattr button on a few websites – and I’ve started looking out for it on articles that I have enjoyed reading. It is a great way to reward bloggers for their hard work.

The service was started by Pirate Bay founder and spokesman Peter Sunde as a way to reward content creators for their work. Ambitions involve using the Flattr button to pay music and video creators as well as writers – Flattr has already teamed up with SoundCloud to include a Flattr button on their music player and there is a way to add a button to your Flickr account. YouTube are apparently keeping an interested eye on the project and Facebook are looking into delivering something similar. The service has already been used at conferences, enabling listeners to ‘Flattr’ speakers.

The Flattr team have already developed an app for Chrome that allows you to support Wikipedia by pressing a browser button whenever you have enjoyed or benefited from a Wikipedia article. As it is unofficial – they are keeping hold of the money raised and will deliver it the the Wikimedia foundation when enough money is raised. Also, when PayPal and Mastercard froze Wikileaks account – Flattr provided a way for supporters to send funds.

Flattr is a great project ran by people that really seem to value internet freedom over profit. It is a refreshing idea in an age of pay-walls and dangerous legislation, and it harks back to the democratic and collaborative origins of the internet. Money goes direct to the producer, the consumer decides what they consider a fair amount to pay and the Flattr button integrates snugly next to the Facebook ‘like’ button. It’s an idea I hope spreads – so sign up and start Flattr’ing.


For anyone involved in the production of news there is one news story that is commanding a lot of attention. The Times newspaper have erected their internet paywall – and news organisations are all on the edge of their seats waiting for the result.

As newspapers look for ways to monetize their online content, has the Times found a way to tap into the wallets of the British public? Or have they tried to stop a drought by blocking the water supply?

The statistics aren’t looking too encouraging for News International – traffic has inevitably gone down and more people are heading over to rival newspapers. For the first time ever the Independent news website has received more hits than the Times. Furthermore, the people that have decided to pay for access aren’t spending as much time on the website as usual.

However, there is another way of looking at the paywall.

A poll conducted by Harris, which investigated who would and who wouldn’t pay for Times content, has been mapped against newspaper website traffic figures provided by ABC. If looked at optimistically, the results show that charging for content could halve the newspapers annual loss.

This could point to a defining moment that will fire up a commercial revolution for the business of news.

But if looked at pessimistically then the numbers don’t add up.

That’s the view expressed by social media guru Clay Shirky in an interview with the Guardian. Shirky goes on to argue that News International and Rupert Murdoch are going to fail because they are only interested in providing news to their “customers” – instead of the public as a whole.

Murdoch’s view is opposed to the ethos of the internet – an ethos of  community, creativity and freedom.

There is no way to be sure which way it will go – but I think the paywall will fail.

Why pay when it is free elsewhere? If every news organization had began charging for access together then it might have worked – but going it alone has only given the Times a disadvantage over the other players in the game.

And, to the consumer, this paywall shows that News International only care about money – something that others have taken efforts to prove they are not.

The Guardian has clearly outlined that they have no intention of charging for content. Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger supports free news and sets his newspapers agenda in opposition to that of the Times. He argues that it may make sense from a business perspective to charge for content, but not from an editorial perspective. Because of this ideological difference there will always be quality free content available as an alternative.

But what I see as the major mistake the Times has made is blocking its content from being discoverable by Google. Cutting its links to the larger conversation of where the internet revolution is heading will hinder the Times ability to grow. They will remain a quiet voice on the sidelines of big news invents.

Or maybe this is the begining of the end for the free internet – and a successful commercial model will force others to follow.

The way this is shaping up suggests that an ideological battle is about to commence. A free and open internet against a charged and closed one. I know what side I am on.

This morning I read four different articles on paid content – three of which point to the future successs of the subscription model of content, and one which doesn’t – news.

American streaming website Hulu (which allows you to watch your favourite televisionprogrammes) has began making serious moves towards a $10 a month subscription plan. Exciting times for anyone looking forward to the launch of products like Google TV. Is our television package still going to be worth paying for with such cheap and accessible content available online?

Lovefilm has indicated the exciting future of web TV. With the high probability of having a browser embedded in all future TV’s, the company looks set to lead the way with a subscription based movie streaming service. A large part of their success comes from their loyal fan-base – 94% of users would recommend the service to a friend!

Finally, computer game streaming service OnLive has been receiving positive reviews from the first batch of gamers to try the service. Currently limited to PC gaming, OnLive allows you to hire and stream games over the internet instead of paying full price. The idea is for the service to come to the home television in the near future.

All of this seems to mark the start of the central home hub – a single box to stream and control all the media content into your home. Exciting times as we move into the cloud!

But, the Times newspaper website has suffered a fall in market share after forcing people to register before access. People are switching off and going to the competitors instead. I personally found myself facing the Times registration page earlier in the week and decided to direct my browsing elsewhere (after all – i know I’ll just have to pay soon). How much more will their market share drop when the paywall comes into full force.

This comes at a time when the latest ABC’s show that online news has enjoyed another significant period of growth.

The internet is changing who we are. One of the most important changes that is taking place is the way that we consume information. This is a question of increasing importance to any one that works in communication – such as marketing and public relations – but it is particularly important for those that create and distribute news.

In fact, the creators and distributors of news are trailing far behind the communication experts in marketing. The reason for this could be because marketers are open to new ideas about how to communicate their message, and need to stay at the top of their game. Communication experts jump on the latest tool and master it before anyone else has heard of it. And once they have mastered it they will be the ones to shout about it and get everyone else using it. Newspapers, on the other hand, suffer from having a tradition media model that has been crafted over time and that hasn’t needed to change dramatically for centuries. But newspaper circulation is steadily decreasing because more and more people are turning to the internet to get their latest news and information for free. So the question of how to monetize news and help journalism survive has become a pressing issue of our time.

But to deal with this challenge, creators and distributors of news must first understand how the internet is changing the audience. In todays busy world we live in a continuous state of interruption, distraction and time pressure. Today’s reader will be checking emails, using a multitude of social networking sites, using the phone for messaging and calling, surfing the internet and keeping on top of a continual stream of news. With so many different channels of communication we are finding it harder to concentrate. And whilst we are taking part in this confusing hive of digital activity we are bombarded by adverts – clever adverts.

Adverts today are not static sections of a newspaper, they are not regular breaks in programmes, and they are not billboards begging for your attention. Advertising is raw and unleashed on the internet – dancing images of alluring women tempt you to click them whilst you try to read a news report; loud, bright and flashing logos are placed exactly where your eyes land when a page loads up; targeted adverts that know exactly who you are and what you want float around your email inbox; games, competitions, offers and once in a lifetime opportunities become more and more appealing as your resistance weakens. These adverts are preying on our primitive subconcious desires and fears, and they are growing in effectiveness and power as the people that sell learn what works and what doesn’t online.

And it is not just these in-your-face techniques that advertisers and marketers are using. The trend is shifting towards generating a complete positive experience around a product or brand online – telling stories, asking the audience questions and involving them emotionally. The goal is to deeply affect the audience and create a strong and deep connection to what the marketer is selling. Again – this is something that news organisations need to learn from. They need to begin creating these stories themselves and learning these new techniques.

Marketers know that we love novelty. Our brain releases chemicals that make us feel pleasure when we encounter something new. And like a drug it makes us want more. It is this demand for novelty that is making us habitually look at our phones for the latest tweet or update. Our brains are reacting in much the same way as they respond to drugs, food and many other things. This addiction to novelty is what is making it harder to concentrate on long pieces of writing. Reading text in our digital environment could be stunting our ability to read deeper into what we are reading. Because we have more sources vieing for our attention, our brain is hooked on novelty and wants “meaning” shortened down to bullet points and sound bites. All of this is leading to a reader that, more than ever, skims through news rather than stops to think about it.

Also, because we are continually multitasking with different streams of media, we are focusing less attention on any one stream. As consumers, if anything demands too much of our attention we are more likely to turn to a new and more novel source. And, according to one expert, the more channels of media we use, the worse our ability to filter irrelevant information, switch between tasks and use our short term memory.

The internet is epoch changing, but it is being dominated more and more by marketers and organisations that try to profit. A fragmented and distracted mind is easily targeted by communication experts. News organisations need to learn from these marketers and copy their techniques, and adapt them.  They need to learn how to provide informative and instructive content to an audience with a fragmented attention, it is only then that they can hope to connect in an effective way.

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.