Friday, August 7, 2009

Rupert Murdoch and Financial Times playing expectations management over news paywalls

Normally when shrewd businessmen come up with brave and innovative ideas to make money, they don't advertise the plans long before they are ready to go.

Which makes it seem all the more strange that a wily old fox like Rupert Murdoch and his counterparts at the Financial Times and the Guardian Media Group have telegraphed their supposed plans to start charging for online content so far in advance.

Like Labour ministers insisting long before a by-election that they have no chance of winning just so they can tell David Dimbleby on election night that the result doesn't matter as everyone knew they would lose, I think Murdoch, the FT and the Guardian are trying to play a little game of expectations management.

If they keep repeating ad infinitum that they are going to start charging for content, the hope is that if/when they do eventually put up their paywall, consumers will have dispensed with the misguided perception that news should be free and will be willing to stump up to read a match report on The Times' website or to check out the latest celeb upskirt shot on The Sun's website.

Other struggling newspapers (i.e. all newspapers) have willingly jumped onto the bandwagon in the hope that they too can bring the public round to the idea that they will have to start paying. For example, check out this piece by Ian Burrell in The Independent which appears at first to be an ordinary media news story but in fact reads like a desperate plea from a dying newspaper for paywalls to save the day.

I tend to agree with Roy Greenslade that Murdoch has failed to understand the way in which technology has fundamentally changed the journalism works. But I think many commentators have over-stated the significance of Murdoch's statements.

I think Murdoch is dipping his toe in the water and trying to influence public perceptions of the value of online news. I would be very surprised if, in a year's time, all the online content across his media empire is behind a paywall.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't think the Indy sounded that desperate, after all,Mr Lebedev is the 7th Cavalry. Do you think pay-per-view is the future?