Rupert Just Doesn’t Get It

Further proof that News Limited boss Rupert Murdoch simply does not understand the internet has emerged with the news that his “pay wall” – where readers have to pay to access online content provided by News Limited – is likely to commence soon within at least part of his Australian operations – namely The Australian newspaper.

News Limited has had their “pay wall” up around the Wall Street Journal for quite some time – and to a certain extent, that’s okay, as they have a very specific product that is not largely available anywhere else. However, taking this model to the “general news” market is extremely risky.

It is often said that the internet “routes itself around” such content access failures. How does this apply in this instance? Well, in a nutshell – people will go elsewhere. While the WSJ can somewhat justify this model, in a general news setting, the news that every other general news site is covering is exactly the same. They are reporting on the same things. The only reason people choose one site or one newspaper over another is largely a decision based on editorial style.

In the Melbourne market for example, the “working class” paper is the Herald Sun – the local News Limited paper – and the more conservatively positioned The Age – a John Fairfax paper – are the two main choices. If Rupert starts putting the “pay wall” up around the Herald Sun, he risks alienating its traditional group of readers, who will simply turn their attention to The Age.

The news in the Herald Sun and the news in The Age are largely the same. The internet users will route themselves around the “pay wall” and pop up on The Age website instead. Instead of having thousands of readers paying to access the Herald Sun as Rupert hopes, he’ll actually drive the readers (and therefore, advertisers) away. I thought he was smarter than that?

On a personal note – I tend to read both sites three or four times a day. If the Herald Sun is removed as an option for me – (I certainly won’t be paying for it) – and I am restricted to The Age, I will then get even more frustrated with the Fairfax philosophy of having sometimes two or three auto-running audio and/or video streams on a page. I find it disrespectful that they can force download intensive content on people who might only be using a dial-up connection.

Bandwidth in this country is scarce enough as it is to slam people’s connections with bandwidth intensive applications without asking, or providing an opt-out.