The print industry is in a rapid decline, online news is more popular than ever, and Rupert Murdoch is proposing making people pay for his online papers from next year.
Are we just waiting around for ink to dry up – or will Murdoch’s plan actually push people who are unwilling to pay for online news back to their newspaper?
Online news is growing rapidly but in a lecture with journalist Rob Andrew, editor of Paid Content.co.uk, it became clear that at the moment people are unwilling to pay for it. A yearly subscription to The Guardian can cost around £350 but in a recent PCUK/Harris Poll, it was found that only 5% of people asked were willing to pay to read news online.
Newspapers rely on advertising but unlike online adverts – there is no guaranteed return – and more and more advertising companies are moving away from print for this reason.
Rob, worringly but accurately, describes newspapers as being in a perilous state and compares this to the music industry.
Music is now accessible free online and the only way to make money from it is through live performances – as the experience of watching live music can’t be replicated online. The industry tried to introduce copy protection to stop music being shared online but abandoned this after sites like Spotify and We7 have made music instantly available for free.
Newspapers are looking for a short-term answer to this crisis to appease shareholders but what they should be doing is finding a long-term solution.
Specialist papers like the Financial Times and European Wall Street Journal currently charge a subscription. The FT has 128,000 subscribers paying approximately £90 a year. I find it highly unlikely people will pay for The Sun, News of the World or even The Times – but Mighty Murdoch is dead set on introducing these charges and if they are no longer available in print form the only option may be to buy online.
Surely if one paper charges online, people will just go to a free newspaper’s site instead? It would be impossible to implement a pay wall system unless all the papers agreed to do this. People do not want to pay for online news and most public opinion polls go directly against Murdoch’s plans.
The Guardian has a different ownership model to papers in the Murdoch News International empire and this allows it to put more into being innovative and exploring and developing it’s online version.
The future of print is very uncertain – if Murdoch does introduce charges will other paper’s follow? or will this backfire completely and will people just go somewhere else for their news?