27 May 2010

Its a Death Trap, It's a Suicide Rap

Rupert Murdoch has decided that Times of London and the Sunday Times will go behind a pay-wall.

I generally think that this is a bad idea since:
  • People haven't paid for content from news publications for over a century, it's been advertising supported, with the cover/subscription price covering only a portion of the actual cost of printing.
  • Putting general interest content behind a firewall tends to remove it from the Internet consciousness, which drives subscriptions and ad revenue down. (See the New York Times' abortive attempt with their OP/EDs)
That being said, I think that Murdoch's plans go way beyond a simple pay-wall, and straight into crazy town, because, as the New York Post, a Murdoch publication that I would like to see vanish into pay-wall obscurity notes, observes, the Times of London won't just be going behind a pay-wall, they will also lock out the search engines almost completely:
The UK's Times and Sunday Times are putting up search walls in addition to pay walls.

The papers, which plan to start charging users for access to their newly redesigned Web sites in late June, will prevent Google and other search engines from linking to their stories.

Although they are not the first papers to erect pay barriers around their content, the papers are going a step further by making most of their site invisible to Google's Web crawler. Except for their homepages, no stories will show up on Google.

The papers are betting that loyal readers will covet access to scarce content. Critics say the move will make it tougher to attract new readers who discover content by searching the Web.
This isn't just a misbegotten business plan, it's an attempt to force payment for links, and it ain't gonna work, at least not unless Murdoch can convince various legislatures to make linking illegal, a course of action that I find profoundly unlikely, since it essentially bans the web.


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