Murdoch bores Googlehole in ill-conceived paywall

Posted on by Mike Evans

The Times, December 4, 1788: When Thunderers were Thunderers

The Times, December 4, 1788: When Thunderers were Thunderers

The Times of London was once called The Thunderer and was the most respected voice in British journalism. Now it has become The Whimperer.

Hardly anyone in the internet community these days has heard of The Thunderer. That's because owner Rupert Murdoch erected a paywall which prevents search-engine indexing and, worse, stops links being published on sites such as this.

Anyone could be forgiven for thinking there are just three national newspapers in Britain: The Telegraph, The Guardian and The Mail. The reason is that stories from these three newspapers can be linked to and quoted around the world. The Times does not allow such plundering of its content.

Belatedly, Rupe has seen the errors of his ways and realised that his flagships, The Times and The Sunday Times are sinking rapidly beneath a sea of indifference because of internet neglect.

According to The Telegraph this morning (note that I can conveniently link to the story), News International has backed down and will allow stories to appear in Google rankings from next month. Says the report:

The move comes amid fears that the newspapers’ exclusion is limiting their influence and driving down advertising revenues. Sources claim the change was a “marketing exercise”.

In the past, Mr Murdoch has lambasted Google as a “parasite” and a “content kleptomaniac” because it only allows companies to feature in search rankings if users are able to click through to at least one page without paying.

He pulled News Corp’s content from Google in 2010, at the same time as launching a strategy to charge readers for online access to its newspapers.

Hiding your newspapers from search engines is a foolish notion and, it appears, executives of The Times and The Sunday Times now agree.

I take the iPad/iPhone subscription because it comes at a highly discounted price of £2 per week (for six copies of The Times and one edition of The Sunday Times). Often I see something that I would like to comment on, but there is no way of linking from within the iPhone and iPad apps. As a result, I turn to The Telegraph and quote its version of the same story.

Quite apart from this frustration, I am not entirely sold on the concept of reading a newspaper in a dedicated app. There is far too much content I am not interested in (including whole sections of The Sunday Times: I consign everything except news, business news and cars/technology to the virtual trash can) and, even within news sections, The Times, too, is cluttered with stuff I do not want to read. At £2 a week I will tolerate this, especially if I can start quoting stuff, but I will not pay a penny more.

In many ways I much prefer the method of reading open-to-Google newspapers such as The Telegraph. I take the RSS feed (there is none for The Times, of course....yet) and scan the headlines, reading only those stories that interest me.

Welcome to the 21st century, Rupert.

by Mike Evans, 27 September 2012

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