Remember Rupert Murdoch’s paywall on the London Times? On Newser, writer Michael Wolff reports that Murdoch is keeping mum about how much success it is (or is not) having, but Wolff claims that an anonymous source has told him that almost nobody is subscribing to the website, and subscribers to the printed paper (who are also granted access to the digital version) are not visiting the site. Wolff calls it “an empty world.”

The wider implications of this emptiness are only just starting to become clear. A Murdoch and Fleet Street veteran with whom I’ve been corresponding about the paywall reported to me on his recent conversation with an A-list entertainment publicist: “What was really interesting to me was that this person volunteered a blinding realization. ‘Why would I get any of my clients to talk to the Times or the Sunday Times if they are behind a paywall? Who can see it? I can’t even share a link and they aren’t on search. It’s as though their writers don’t exist anymore.’”

If this is true, I can’t say I’m surprised. Unique page views are the currency of the web, and by closing off his sites from new eyeballs Murdoch is chopping his own traffic off at the knees. Of course, to respond to the publicist in the quote, the people who subscribe to or buy the print edition of the Times will be able to see the interview—but on the other hand, the other papers will still have print readers plus web readers.

Is Wolff’s source’s information true? If so, will Murdoch eventually admit that the paywall was a bad idea? Wonder how long it will take to find out.


  1. Murdoch is how old ?

    For goodness sakes the guy hasn’t a clue about this new internet world of newspapers. I replied to a newspaper article when he launched his pay site and declared that it would attract only the terminally idiotic.

    For newspapers to work on the wider web they need to be collectively involved in a Micro-pay system where article views are charged for at approx 2c each and either accumulated monthly for billing or against prepaid accounts. In parallel, his pay wall needs to be removed and preview of articles made available to googlers.

    It seems very simple to me, but I don’t see anyone building this central kind of market place until they exhaust all of the other doomed solutions.

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail