The Professional Idiot Shyly, Slyly Asks : Will You Pay To Read My Blog?
The Answers Are Unanimous & Ugly
By Darryl Mason
The anticipation builds for Australia's media corporations and hundreds of nervous journalists. Will readers of Fairfax and Murdoch media pay to access the content they now get for free? Will a You Must Pay! system save Australia's corporate media from crashing and burning?
I'll guess we'll see, with both Murdoch and Fairfax now having announced plans to introduce charges to access some of their online content.
And so a carefully worded proposal from The Professional Idiot to his readers, and the dozens of commenters who supply much of the overall content of his blog, is floated under the ominous heading A Warning To You.
In this proposal, this delicate testing of the waters, The Professional Idiot asks "think it will work?" as he embraces the Digital Rupert New Age Of NewsOTainment mantra of convincing people they should pay to read Murdoch media news and blogs.
The answer from the Boltoids is unanimous, from the casual visitors to the diehard Andrew Bolt true believers and obsessive compulsive commenters. Fuck No, Rupert. We Won't Pay!
It's a nervous time for Murdoch execs and Rupert himself, along with many hundreds of Australian employees, they lost a lot of money, ad sales are down anything from 20-40%, or more, they have to give away thousands of copies of the supposedly blue chip asset, The Australian, everyday in the foyers of dozens of office towers in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, to keep advertisers happy, the old business model is rivering blood. They're fucking scared.
A few years back, Rupert Murdoch looked at the blog phenomena and decided that kind of content was going to become a big part of the new digital media future he was reluctantly forced to quickly try and get a grasp of.
Rupert Murdoch loved that prolific comments provided so many hits and free content for blogs, and on news stories. He was overwhelmed by the idea that there were all these independent bloggers doing what they did for free, for free! not like all those real journalists with their demands for....expenses and....sunlight and.....chairs, and all the rest of it. Rupert seemed to understand a few years ago that the blogger provided the starting point, the ignition switch, for the comments to flow, adding content, drawing readers back again and again, even if they weren't commenting, just to read what everyone else was saying.
So snap up a couple of independent bloggers, turn columnists into sorta-bloggers, and load their pages with ads. Oh, wait. The arse just completely fell out of ad revenue. Fuck, look at it go. Okay, what now? Let's make 'em pay!
Rupert fantasised, or believed the exciting blitherings of some 22 year old digital maverick who convinced him, either in all seriousness or in jest, that one day people will be happy to pay to read blogs. Yes, they will. They'll pay to read them and still write pages of comments for free. And they'll do it happily.
This idea must have been particularly tasty to Rupert : they will pay me to contribute free content to my media sites which I'll then charge others to read! Brilliant!
Well, if Rupert Murdoch did believe some scenario like that, he can forget about it right now.
That business model is already bagged and slabbed.
The daily readers of The Professional Idiot, the most popular (at least as far as hits go) of all the Australian Murdoch blogs, have filed their complaints about soon having to Pay To Read, and the complaints are many, and annoyed, and tone dark with the sound of soon to be departing eyeballs and interest :
"It would kill blogging and kill your readership. It would kill discussion and debate on important issues."
"Shareholders should see this a sign of dementia - they should to tell him to enjoy his retirement and move over for his sons."
"Pay to post on news blogs? Tell ‘im he’s dreamin’."
"Once again MSM is planning to control what we read. I think it will actually bring a lot more underground blogs up which can only be a good thing. MSM is merely a propoganda machine anyway."
"I trust that if Murdoch is planning on charging us to read your blog he’ll also be paying us for our contributions. Some of the entries posted by amateurs demonstrate more originality of thought, and indeed a higher degree of technical savvy, than articles written by Murdoch’s ‘quality journalists’."
"I’m sorry Andrew, I love reading your blog, but if I have to pay I will spend my time elsewhere. The content is great, but at the end of the day it’s entertainment and there is plenty of FREE entertainment on the net to choose from."
"Charge to visit the blog and the advertisers will walk out the same door as the readers."
"lol....paying for propaganda or half the story supplied by the murdoch globalist empire...the world according to rupert and his minions will need a truth and integrity injection before they get a cash injection..."
"I wont support a pay wall. Uncle Rupert will be lucky to make this stick. Lets say China decides to print News Ltd stuff for free. Is Rupert going to shirt front Beijing? Worked real well last time he tried.""Pretty sad business sense. Loyalty was once a valued customer trait - not anymore - bleed the bastards dry."
"NewsCorp is mostly left wing dribble not much better than the Age. I look forward to their downfall."
"NOTE TO THE INCOMPETANT IDIOTS running NewsCorp: If you want more readers, sack your lying left wing arts degree journalists, and hire real journalists who will write the truth and and not the politically correct dribble most of them write."
"News Ltd are the bastions of the right wing point of view. If News Ltd make all their site user pays they are giving up ‘free’ news to the left."
"In terms of this blog. Nobody, except Andrew’s diehard supports are going to pay to access this blog. Then there will be so few people her that it just wont be the same. Very little debate just a love feast between a few."
"This is a business decision by someone who don’t understand the web.""As much as I like you Andrew, if Rupe puts you behind a pay-wall then this is good bye."
"I ain’t gonna work"
"Like pornography, there are plenty of people willing to look up the news online when it’s free, but when it comes to paying for it, very few will do so."
"If Rupert wants to charges us to do so then I will cancel delivery of my Herald Sun. Therefore, the local newsagent will lose a customer and I imagine I won’t be the only one ‘pulling the plug’."
"Pay to read the news, and pay to post on news blogs? In a pig’s eye!""If he goes ahead with this it will be the worst decision he has made and one which will see the end of his media empire."
And countless examples of short and simple :
The major problem seems to be that most of The Professional Idiot's daily readers think the rest of the Murdoch online media is worthless trash riven with pagan socialist secret muslim leftie journos and global warming propagandising Rudd worshippers.
"I won't pay."
They don't want to pay to read Bolt's blog, and they'll be fucked if they will pay some sort of overall fee to get access to read the blog and the rest of the Herald Sun or Adelaide Advertiser, they don't sound interested in other Murdoch content outside of Bolt's blog, and they openly mock the daily Murdoch news as celebrity guff and Green-brainwashed fluff not worth a single click.
So it would appear the only way to capture any money from the Boltoids would be to charge readers for access only to The Professiona ldiot's blog, and not some package drawing in other Murdoch content.
If Rupert Murdoch is seriously considering charging to read a blog, or to comment at a blog, or to read comments, how much would he need to charge to make it worthwhile for the blogger, and to pay for the admin and moderators and researchers?
A You Must Pay! blog has to spot on, no mistakes, constant postings, breaking news as it happens, instant moderation and updated comments, all of this around the clock. The complaints from those who pay will be vast, grating and time-consuming.
Basically, Bolt's blog would need to become something of a news portal and blog, with quick turnover of stories, columns, comments. If Bolt doesn't then rely on free labour from students and interns, he's going to have be charging 10,000 readers at least $50 a year to make it worthwhile, or even break even.
But he's not going to find 10,000 who will pay to read his blog. Maybe a thousand, if he's lucky, more likely only a few hundred, and then only if the price is low.
If you could charge to read blogs, more bloggers would be doing it. It doesn't work. Unless you're a time traveller and can go check out the future for your subscribers and give them advice on how to avoid falling tree limbs or cyclones or shitty stock or house-losing divorces, people won't pay to read a blog.
A likely scenario is that Bolt, like Tim Blair, Piers Akerman and Janet Albretchsen will be bundled together in a single subscription, monthly or yearly. You pay for The Idiot and get some bonus Planet Janet and Ak Attack. Such a subscription service might work on e-readers and iPhones, where the charge is added to your account, simple, but the problem remains that most of their online competition will not be charging, and everything they do charge for will end on fair use sites anyway, or liberally quoted in blogs.
They could call it The Sad Conservative Ranter Value Bundle.
Bolt's got maybe 30,000 readers who visit his site at least once or twice a week, that's a very generous estimate. The daily readership is obviously much less. It might be only 5000 or 6000 readers, for the most heavily promoted blog site in Australia.
Could Rupert charge Boltoid's $100 a year if The Professional Idiot got in and interacted with subscribers in the way George Mega already does at The Australian? Actually talked to them? Maybe a daily video of The Professional Idiot's eye-rolling, girlish shoulder shrugging and impudent whining that only Premium Content Bolt readers can experience?
The shock to come that should already be so obvious to professional media execs who get paid to know this kind of shit is this : most of The Professional Idiot's audience is attracted to the blog because of the range of intelligent to crazed to WTF? comments his blog attracts. When Murdoch starts charging to read the blog, the comments will disappear, the throb of life of anger of laughter of mockery of bullying of hysterical attacks of slayings and occasional good-natured cajoling will be gone.
The Professional Idiot's commenters mostly know this, because they are people who won't pay, and won't come back if they're expected to.
I know that market watchers have poured over all those comments at The Professional Idiot's as he tries to gauge reaction to a You Must Pay! version of his blog, and other Murdoch online media content. The reaction from Boltoids could not have been any more disastrous.
There may be You Must Pay! content on Murdoch media sites by January, 2010, but it seems unlikely to include Murdoch bloggers, particularly The Professional Idiot and Tim Blair.
Good luck to them if they can make it work.