On Rupert Murdoch's 'Times' Paywall

It's a radical approach. You go to the home page of the Times of London, and you see something like this (click for larger):


But if you then click on any headline or story, this is what you see:

You get absolutely nothing without signing up for paid service. No first-paragraph tease (a la the WSJ), no "metered" service of so many free stories per month (a la the FT), not even any Google search results on the contents of the story. I mentioned in my "Google and the News" story that some news organizations were working with Google to be sure that their articles would still be indexed, even if behind a paywall. The Times has (I am told) worked with Google to be sure that the stories will not appear in search results, from Google or anyone else.

It is a gutsy move. Will it work? "Work" in the sense of bolstering the paper's combo of print and paid-online revenues? I have no idea. But I'm glad Murdoch's trying, for reasons laid out in that Google+News story. In the long run, the tech people I interviewed were sure that customers would pay for online news info. In the short run, no one is really sure which payment system will be the right one. The only way to find out is by trial and error. "The three most important things any newspaper can do now are experiment, experiment, and experiment," Google's chief economist, Hal Varian, said in the story. Rupert Murdoch is doing just that.
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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