The Charge of the Paywall Brigade?
I watched the movie “The Blind Side” this weekend. Being a sports fan I was interested in it but being a human being I was touched by it. I recommend anyone take a few minutes away from things being offered as entertainment these days and watch this one.
Why am I telling you this? Because there is a part of the movie that relates to the famous poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson “The Charge of the Light Brigade” (don’t worry, this won’t be a spoiler for the movie at all). I never paid close attention to the poem until yesterday but the second verse reads
“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Someone had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
What I didn’t know is that this group was sent into battle because of a mistake made by someone else. Despite the mistake they carried out their orders to the end.
Ah yes, the Internet marketing angle. The parallel I am drawing here is that one of the most vocal leaders of instituting paywalls for online newspaper content, Rupert Murdoch, is leading his own charge that many think is a mistake. His News Corp. holdings in the UK, The Times and The Sunday Times will be putting their paywalls up starting in June and many wonder if this will be the beginning of the end or a much needed proof of concept. Mr. Murdoch has been the most vocal proponent of paywalls but there has been very little action until now. It looks like he is about to put his money where his mouth is.
In a way, I respect his charge forward into what many see as a losing battle. Who in this day and age will pay extra for content from one source that will be found elsewhere for free? Many competitors of News Corp. are more than happy to watch this experiment play out on a bigger stage and will be ready to comment whether News Corp. proves its point or essentially falls on its sword.
“At a defining moment for journalism, this is a crucial step towards making the business of news an economically exciting proposition,” said Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International, the U.K. newspapers division of News Corp., which publishes the Times and Sunday Times. Their readers will pay 2 pounds a week (about $150 a year) or 1 pound a day, starting in June.
News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch is one of the most vocal champions of paid Web sites, and has pledged that all the company’s news outlets will adopt some kind of reader fee system. The Times and Sunday Times are the first News Corp. outlets to make the transition.
Apparently, the higher ups are not fooling themselves either. In fact, they may just be cleaning house a bit
It’s unclear how many readers will agree to pay the fees, and advertisers may demand lower rates from the papers or spend money elsewhere as Web traffic declines. In a recent internal memo, Ms. Brooks said Web users will drop “dramatically” and that the remaining readers will be “those who are more committed to and engaged with our titles.”
So maybe their plan is to provide advertisers with actual real readers who will be best suited for specific products and offerings? Maybe this will just be a way to find where the true strength of the readership of these offerings are?
The next question though is will there be enough readers left and will this mean there will need to be new payment methods for ads? Rather than “cost per thousand” rates the new ads may be sold at the “cost for the one thousand readers left” rate?
June will certainly be interesting when this all unfolds. Is Rupert Murdoch leading his own “Charge of the Light Brigade” into the valley of advertising death or will he come out the other side victorious? Your thoughts?