Media commentator, digital soothsayer and all-round interesting read Clay Shirky gives his views on News International’s paywalls at the Times and Sunday Times, the first figures for which were released last week.
‘Paywall thinking’, he suggests, may not be possible in a world where “the internet commodifies the business of newspapers”:
Over the last 15 years, many newspaper people have assumed continuity with the analog business model, which is to say they assumed that readers could eventually be persuaded or forced pay for digital editions. This in turn suggested that the failure of any given paywall was no evidence of anything other than the need to try again.
What is new about the Times’ paywall – what may in fact make it a watershed – isn’t strategy or implementation. What’s new is that it has launched as people in the news business are rethinking assumed continuity. It’s new because the people paying attention to it are now willing to regard the results as evidence of something. To the newspaper world, TimesSelect looked like an experiment. The Times and Sunday Times look like a referendum on the future.