Saturday, August 15, 2009

Paywalls For Murdoch Bloggers?

"No. NO. N.O. Nope. Nah. Never. Ever."

By Darryl Mason

Yesterday, we had a look at the responses in comments at Andrew Bolt's blog to the announcement that Digital Rupert wants everyone to start paying to read his 'quality journalism', and presumably blogs as well.

Murdoch wants his star online writers to pay their way now, they have to prove their worth by showing that they have plenty of loyal readers who will fork over some cash to get access to their thoughts and insights and research.

When The Professional Idiot asked, whaddayathink? 99% of Boltoids responded "No!"

In short, the 'Step One : Gauge Public Reaction' exercise in slowly introducing thousands of Andrew Bolt readers to the 'You Will Pay!' model was a Total Fucking Disaster.

So then Tim Blair, casual blogger at the Daily Telegraph, took a shot at finding out if his readers will now pay for what they've been reading for years online for free.

According to Blair, the installation of pay walls across the Digital Rupert empire....
....might happen more rapidly than people expect. You all up for payin’?
Cue a Total Fucking Disaster Part 2 as dozens of Blair's most dedicated readers and commenters, those expected by Digital Ruper executives to be the likeliest to pay, crush dreams of healthily profitable blogging :

"The short answer is: never. I’ve never paid for on-line content and never will."




"Sorry, not paying. Ever."

"You all up for payin’? No."

"tell ‘em their dreaming."

"NO There are plenty of other free sites around."

"People won’t pay. They just won’t. It may suck, but there it is."

"I’d be disappointed if I was asked to pay for access to a blog and probably wouldn’t, with all due respects to your talents, Tim."


"Hell no"

"Nice blog you’ve got here, Tim. Pity if something should happen to it."

And my favourite :

"I’m getting a very strong 'Super League' vibe about this whole idea."

After dozens of utterly negative comments towards the possibility of Blair stepping behind a pay wall in Digital Rupert's NewsOTainment Online Fortress, Blair's very good friend 'WB' dropped by and, what a shock, announced that 'You Will Pay!' is damn good idea, actually :

"The point for Rupert I guess is that ad revenue is just not enough.

....he’s having to turn his mind to charging and I am having to turn my mind to paying for the content I access multiple times daily and currently for no more than my ISP and mobile phone charges.

I love online content. It rocks for the most part. And I think it has value that should be paid for to the authors and creators of it. So I kind of hope Rupert gets this up..."

'WB' was all but a lone voice backing 'You Will Pay!' in all those pages of negative comments :

"No. N.O. Hell, no."

"You all up for payin’? Nope!"

"Ha! Dream on."

"You all up for payin’?"


Tim Blair has the same fundamental problem that Andrew Bolt has. Their thousands of readers might yet come round to the idea of paying something each month or year to read their blogs, with plenty of incentives, but they most certainly will not pay while Bolt and Blair remain a part of the Digital Rupert empire.

Many Blair and Bolt readers have no love or loyalty for Murdoch, and they don't appear interested in the rest of Digital Rupert's world of content. They don't want their money being used by the Daily Telegraph and Courier Mail to denigrate society with celebrity porn filth and art wank, helping to fund the cursed leftie Obama & Al Gore faithful cheer squads they appear to believe have infested the news rooms of virtually all the Australian news media.

For someone who was in the vanguard of Australian bloggers back in the dark and turgid days of the early 2000s, this must be quite a monumental moment for Tim Blair. It's certainly an extremely significant event in the history of Australian blogging, for professional bloggers to turn to their audiences and hold out a permanent begging bowl.

But can the 'You Will Pay!' model be made to work?

The very concept of a blog has to change. It can't just be a text blog anymore. A 'You Will Pay!' site built around one journalist, or opinionist, will have to thumping with content, video, audio, decent search engines to trawl the archives, and plenty more to turn something that was free into something that costs money.

No readers of any Australian blogs seem to like the idea of the blogs they like being moved behind pay walls, and why should they? It clearly means a lot less other readers and commenters. The community of readers built up around a blog with lively comment threads will always be decimated by the shift from free to pay for access.

Like bloggers, prolific and verbose commenters love to know that the blog that they're spending time and thought commenting at is actually being read by more than a few dozen, or a few hundred, people.

These commenters like the big audience that a Bolt or Blair blog site provides. They're not going to have that behind pay walls. They know that. As many at Bolt and Blair's blogs have already pointed out, a 'You Wil Pay!' blog becomes like a private club, with limited attendance, and the same old people coming back every day until the club closes due to extreme boredom.

Seriously, what's the point of dropping landmine comments at Digital Rupert blogs baiting Stupid Lefties by claiming they frothingly fantasise about a four-way with Hitler, Stalin and Mao, if a pay wall means that no Stupid Lefties will be reading such witty utterances?

And to top it all off, there will also be no more anonymous or alias-only commenting under the Digital Rupert New Media Order. Tim Blair is also preparing his readers for that alarming prospect.

Regardless of whether pay walls go up around the Blair & Bolt blogs, a Digital Rupert ID system for commenting is on the cards. Digital Rupert wants to data-mine readers and give the information culled from registrations to advertisers and marketers. It's all part of the Digital Rupert strategy to allow advertisers to "target you across multiple platforms". Sounds painful.

To finish, another sampling of the 100-plus negative comments Blair received when he dared to ask his readers, folksy-style, "You all up for payin'?":

"Nope. Two things I would never pay for - and online news is one of them."

"Tim - I’m also going to have to say no. Sorry."

"I’m afraid not, Tim. For all the reasons listed above."

"You all up for payin’? HAHAHAHA......HAHAHAHAH....GASP.... HAHAHAH wait, you’re serious? nope"

"The concept of having to pay to read this blog is very amusing."

There's a lot of Murdoch execs, and journalists, who can't see the funny side of the prickly predicament they're now in.

A media empire is crumbling, gushing billions, losing audiences, and perhaps most crushingly for Rupert Murdoch himself, Losing Influence. Murdoch lost truckloads of money keeping The Australian in production through the 1980s and 1990s because he knew he could influence and control the government of the day with a national broadsheet read by the country's most powerful business leaders, politicians and ruling classes. Those days are over.

To save his fortune and his business, Murdoch will dare to lose one million online free readers to suck some bucks from 1000 who are willing to pay.

These are desperate end days for the Murdoch media empire.

Murdoch has to find readers who will pay. Millions of them around the world to stem the massive losses, even after he shuts down the printing presses for the last time.

And where are all these people who will pay to read what they used to get for free?

Nobody seems to know yet.

Tim Blair and Andrew Bolt went looking and they certainly couldn't find any.

Except for 'WB' of course.

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