October 18, 2011

Rupert's firewall coming to The Oz

As threatened, pay for view is coming to The Australian, the only truly quality newspaper in the country (yeah:  suck it up Robert Manne).

At least Rupert has chosen a price-point that isn't entirely unpalatable, and will be offering exactly the right mix of options, including for those who buy only one print edition each week - on Saturday.  Smart.

Unlike Fairfax, charging $1.3K a year for their niche business paper, the Fin Review ... here, for those with short memories.

I recently saw the figures demonstrating the complete failure of the AFR experiment; kept the material for many weeks, meaning to post, it got stale, the moment had passed, so I deleted ... only a week ago (bugger!).  Anyway, the point is that, as I imagined - and I'm sure you worked it out pretty quickly too - the AFR only managed to find a handful of rich companies or really stupid people prepared to pay more than a thousand dollars a year so as to be able to peruse the occasional interesting article online.  Visually challenged folk could see from the start that the business model was a total bust.  (The best bits of the AFR  - Review and the large format colour mag that comes out on the last Friday of the month - aren't even available online, you still have to buy the print versions.)

As a regular online reader of The Oz, I'm not entirely sure that I'll sign up.  I didn't jump in when The New York Times went pay-to-read, I stay within my twenty free articles per month, then Google the relevant headline for anything over the free limit (viewing of the resulting article when using a search engine is also free).  Even though it hasn't been a problem, I worry about not being able to access the book reviews and the health section, so I mostly no longer read the news articles ... just in case my work-around fails and I get locked out until the beginning of the following month.  In other words, I read the NYTs far less than I used to.

No word in The Oz pricing announcement whether there will be a limit on the number of free articles that can be accessed over a set period of time, but that probably won't be necessary; if they're going to lock up the best bits and pretty much everything else (like Fairfax did with the AFR), we simply won't be able to access anything without a paid-up subscription. Even the sneak previews of the AFR only amount to a sentence or two (which means it's impossible to know if the article is worthwhile, or just guff).

My Oz reading looks like it's about to become confined to the Saturday edition, and that's a shame.

Good luck with the firewall Mr Murdoch

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