In a move which betrays Rupert Murdoch’s poor understanding of the new media, The Australian has put most of its online content behind a paywall.
Murdoch has done the same thing in Britain with The Times, with the result that The Guardian has now become the most linked-to and linked-from online paper, directly taking public influence – and ad revenue – away from its competitor. On the internet, it’s all about hits.
Paywalls may work for specialist publications which the boss is paying for anyway, like the Financial Times. But for a self-confessed “campaigning” newspaper like The Australian, I predict disaster: most of the tiny market segment which is willing to pay for quality journalism will be looking for a lot more balance than The Australian is offering. This means that its customers will consist mainly of thinking people who already agree with its right-wing stance and have cash to spare to have those views reinforced – which leaves, oh, maybe seventeen people.
As blogger Crispin Hull puts it, “[l]ike The Times in Britain, [The Australian] might fold in on itself in an insular, self-congratulatory way”.
While Murdoch can continue to subsidise his pet project with the income from his other tentacles, the paywall may well have the fortuitous result of reducing The Australian’s unedifying effect on this country’s political health.
I have enjoyed sparring with The Australian, but most certainly will not pay for the privilege of being dissembled to. That’s the end of this series of posts.