Back in 2009, Rupert Murdoch closed the London Times down with a paywall, preventing even Google from perusing the stories contained within. Approximately 200,000 subscribers later (or 130,751 if you’re to believe PaidContent), the experiment was clearly a failure. Now Murdoch is opening up the paper to search engines, although they will only get two lines of each story, thereby ensuring Google is full of ledes but no meat.
TechDirt notes that the Times will still be a paid subscription and that the content will still live behind a paywall. However, now that consumers can be made aware of stories behind that wall, in whatever truncated form, perhaps that subscriber number will rise.
As I wrote two years ago, the paywall – or, more precisely, micro-transactions – will become more prevalent. However, the news business is a hard nut. The world wants reams of content for free and many news organizations are willing to give it to them – for a price. Being stuck behind any paywall, be it the London Times, the WSJ’s iron gates, or a misguided interstitial on a small town paper, is a detriment to the writers who labor behind it. While I don’t want to say something as hippy-dippy as “News wants to be free,” a newsperson’s career – and the readers’ benefit – comes from news being readily accessible.
Maybe Murdoch will build his own Myspace-themed search engine (Mying?) and let folks find whole stories that way. In honesty, I wouldn’t put it past them.
Image via SpiderIndex