It’s no secret I’m not terribly keen on paywalls for Internet newspaper content. I think they don’t work, and they break the hyperlinking that is fundamental to the Internet. So I’m watching the London Times’s paywall experiment with interest.
This story from the Independent provides an update of what is known about the project’s success so far. Though it does provide both anti-paywall and pro-paywall points of view, the anti-paywall one seems a lot more convincing—the pro-paywall side seems to come off a bit like whistling in the dark to me.
Reportedly, traffic to the Times site has fallen off by 90%, and advertisers are leaving like rats departing a sinking ship.
Rob Lynam, head of press trading at the media agency MEC, whose clients include Lloyds Banking Group, Orange, Morrisons and Chanel, says, "We are just not advertising on it. If there’s no traffic on there, there’s no point in advertising on there."
And publicists are reporting that clients are becoming more and more reluctant to give interviews or release stories to the Times given that they won’t be showing up in Internet search engines as they would from other sources. Reporters and columnists aren’t happy about the lack of wider dissemination of their works either.
There are people who support the paywall, suggesting that the trend is toward more of them rather than less. Some pundits suggest that Murdoch’s move is “more about more about gathering consumer information than selling content,” building relationships with consumers who have provided their credit card numbers.
At any rate, it’s going to be interesting to see just how long these paywalls last.
(Found via Techdirt.)