Would you pay to cross-link to The Times and The Sun ?
Tom Harris’s blog today What about the blogs? Poses questions relating to the supposed plans by News International to introduce subscription fees for all its main titles (including The Sun and The Times) Rupert Murdoch plans charge for all news websites by next summer
And raises the question of what that will do to the blogosphere – whose habit of linking back to other sites – particularly in the mainstream media – is a staple diet of many blogs (mine included).
I think I can safely say that this isn’t likely to happen. The whole point of the new media technologies is that they are interdependent, and more or less free on a per article basis. (but not of course in total – I pay £20 per month for my ISP – some pay less, some much more)
Murdoch is right when he says that investigative journalism doesn’t come cheap. It’s certainly true that newspapers and their websites are not “not for profit” organisations, or charities – and that they have to make a crust somehow.
Well they’ll do it by the tried and tested ways of advertising, product placement & freebies with hard copies, and in the case of News International for one, selling the internet bandwidth which the punters use to surf on into their sites.
They’ll do it by merging the internet with their satellite channels, by merging their pay sports channels with their internet sites, and by selling the coverage of local football games in far flung rural locations, to homesick expats in further flung urban locations.
But if web users are faced with charges at the Times, then they’ll go to the Telegraph, or the Guardian. If they’re charged at the Sun they’ll go to the Mirror. If they’re charged at all of them, they’ll start going to foreign newspapers.
In short they will find a way round it. In just the same way as people found a way to record the Top 40 from their radio cassette recorders in the 70’s; in just the same way as they found ways to distribute MP3s in the 90’s and noughties; in just the same way as they moved to Firefox when the Microsoft product didn’t do what they wanted. They will find a way round whatever obstacles are put in place.
Now if Rupert Murdoch was really serious about doing something different, he’d be thinking about paying the bloggers – because that’s where most of the news seems to be coming from these days.
In all seriousness, if he (for instance) bought out WordPress, then he could offer a free blogging set up (as now), have a ‘posting on’ clause built into the small print – which gave his publications first dibs on the best stuff. He could sell a premium service, which gave access to flashy widgets with feeds from News International sources to place on their sites – making their blogs look professional, and giving further exposure and traffic to his own. And yes – paying the good bloggers to keep on doing it – provided of course they let News International syndicate the copy.
Whatever he may have blurted out in a moment of ire, I’m pretty sure that these thoughts haven’t escaped News International.
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