Rupert Murdoch is once again boosting Apple’s iPad. The Guardian writes that Murdoch spoke at a media debate, saying of Apple:

"It looks like they will sell around 15m iPads this calendar year and more than 40m by 2012. And the iPad is just one of many tablet or slate computers in the pipeline. News Corp fully intends to be across all those platforms too."

He also had disparaging words for anyone who used the expression “Information wants to be free.” (I am so, so sick of both that expression and of people beating the dead horse it represents.) He said that subscription levels for his paywalled Times and Sunday Times are strong, though did not give exact figures.

I’m really going to be interested to see how Murdoch’s paywall strategy plays out over the long term. On a related note, I saw on Poynter’s Biz Blog an article by Rick Edmonds about a five-year-old “porous” paywall that hasn’t gotten much press but seems to be doing well by the paper that implemented it, the Spokane, Washington Spokesman-Review.

The Spokesman-Review offers the majority of its content for free, with just a few niche options (local enterprise stories and archives) behind a paywall. Edmonds notes that the paper doesn’t have any obvious holes in its content that the average viewer would notice.

Nor is there a conspicuous pitch to subscribe. A reader who alternates between print and online would figure out that there are holes in the online version, and a heavy user would bump into the pay wall. Those heavy online users are candidates for a $7.95 monthly online-only subscription; print subscribers get full access for free if they register.

The paper instituted the paywall to protect its print circulation, after a Knight-Ridder study predicted a free site would lead to a slow erosion of print readership in favor of the online version. The paper reports that the paywall has slowed the erosion, though not entirely stopped it. The paper plans to take more content behind the paywall, but not very much—only “a row of bricks at a time.”

It is interesting to note, in light of the recently well-publicized debate, that a relatively permissive paywall has been doing well by a paper that has quietly been using it for five years. Perhaps this should point out to the Murdochs of the world that, hey, you’re doing it wrong.



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