What The Times’ new paywall update means for PRs

It’s emerged this week The Times newspaper is backtracking ever so slightly on its paywall policy. It really is ‘ever so slightly’, two sentences at a time.

the times paywall

When The Times’ paywall shot up in May 2010 it was unique. Unique because it completely closed off all access to the site’s editorial content for non-subscribers. This contrasted harshly with other paywalls that allowed readers to view a select number of articles or at least read the headline and first paragraph, notably the FT but other trade and specialist titles too.

Now the News Corp owned paper has backtracked. Google, Bing and any other search engine’s crawlers will be able to grab the first two sentences the paper’s editorial articles and index them alongside freely accessible sites. The update should happen next month, says The Telegraph.

Paid Content rightly suggests this is an effort to market the paper to new customers, having reached over 130,000 paying subscribers since the paywall went up. Ignoring the “drive by traffic” has been at the heart of The Times’ strategy, and it’s nice to know the paper’s digital team are willing to reassess their position a few years in.

But what does this mean for PRs?

When the paywall first went up I had a few questions over the value of the paper for PRs, effectively weighing the worth of reaching a fledgling but well targeted audience with a wider, more causal readership. There were also questions of exclusive stories with a site paywalled up to the eyeballs, and generally how monitoring would be tougher for PRs.

The latest update means it is work revisiting these topics:

  • Exclusives: well it seems you can have your cake and eat it too. Or other clichés. From a PR perspective, The Times is much more appealing for an exclusive story with a few bricks knocked out of the paywall. Your story will now get to the national broadsheet readers who are arguably far more engaged than the legions of causal readers hitting guardian.co.uk and telegraph.co.uk everyday. If you’re looking after a brand whose name won’t grab attention in headlines, this is even more appealing.
  • Monitoring: this will get a whole lot easier, especially for anyone scanning nationals for client and industry coverage to compile a morning news scan. If there’s a big story picked up by other nationals, I’ll bet my Gorkana log-in few PRs have included a Times article in news scans over the last two years. You’re just so much more likely to find it somewhere else first. Presumably the update means Times content will be included in Google Alerts too, but Paid Content confirmed monitoring services such as Meltwater are still off the cards. The downside is any client without a sub won’t be able to read the entire article in their scan, but at least The Times will be back on the radar. Which leads us to…
  • Influence vs exposure: this makes me wonder if Times writers have become less influential than their counterparts at other papers, whose stories are freely viewable by PRs, analysts, clients and…everyone. Does lack of exposure mean less influence? It’s not impossible, but if it’s the case the new paywall could reverse this process. Of course the majority of Times’ writers can be followed on Twitter, and the editorial team haven’t been hidden away in a cupboard since 2010. Some of them started a Tumblr.


The Telegraph vs The Guardian: Who has more readers?

Last week the latest National Readership Survey (NRS) figures were released, detailing how many of us Joe publics pick up and read a newspaper or news online every day. Despite being one set of figures, different media outlets managed to report the news with different angles. And quite self-serving angles at that.

telegraph vs guardian

Take for example The Telegraph’s opening line“More people read The Telegraph online and in print every day than any other quality daily, new independent figures reveal”.

Seems quite straightforward, survey shows more people read The Telegraph than any other paper – if you discount non-quality types like The Sun. The paper backs this up by stating “The first study to combine print and web readership has found that 1,946,000 people read The Telegraph every day, compared to 1,346,000 for The Times”.

All sounds good, until you read The Guardian’s piece on the same survey results. “The Guardian had the biggest combined print and online monthly readership of British national quality titles in the year to the end of March, according to the latest National Readership Survey (NRS) figures.”

But that sounds like The Guardian is saying it is the most read quality paper. It’s report has figures too, “The Guardian and guardian.co.uk’s readerships combined gave an average monthly readership of 8.95 million in the 12-month period, ahead of the Daily Telegraph/Telegraph.co.uk audience of 8.82 million”.

Ah, there is it you see. The Telegraph is measuring on the largest number of daily readers, whereas The Guardian has gone for average monthly readers over a year. So it’s sort of comparing one day to one year…very sort of. I’m more inclined towards The Guardian’s stats, as measuring over the last year seems like a better indication of readership levels. In reality there’s no way to be certain which of these papers’ is the more widely read. The only thing we’re sure of it The Indy is well and truly in fourth place, lagging behind even The Times despite its full fat paywall.


Facebook–an Oyster Card for online news?

So Facebook is continuing its acquisition of journalists, with the arrival of former Bloomberg hack Dan Fletcher as the platform’s ‘managing editor’ – but what does this mean for online news, is the social media behemoth about to take on traditional giants of the news industry?

It’s an interesting development, not least because of the vast global audience that Facebook could become an aggregator for, with tailored, bespoke news delivery. Such a service could potentially be able to take on one of the biggest challenges to the news industry, namely monetising content in such a fashion that avoids creating silos.

At present, only a few online news providers require a subscription – the FT seemingly the most successful, with revenue from subs overtaking that from advertising for the first time, while the Times has to regularly ‘drops’ its paywall (allegedly) in order to maintain decent levels of ABCs.

The challenge faced is that the public want news from a variety of sources, but are unwilling – unsurprisingly – to pay for each and every source they visit. Facebook becoming an aggregator for news content distribution, in some form or other, could potentially tackle this, with the potential to establish an ‘Oyster Card’ style mechanic.

Under such, readers could buy pre-paid credit for the overarching network of news sites delivered through Facebook, and simply spend it as they wish, with Facebook taking responsibility for distributing fees accordingly. The sheer scale of Facebook’s network would suit such an innovative solution, and would avoid the silos created online at present, whilst also giving the public the news they want, from the sources they want it from.

It’s a long shot, but it might just work…


Brits are online video crazy

Now I am a fan of YouTube, to the extent where I would rather watch a few odd clips online versus sitting down to watch a full 30 minute programme on the telly.

Thanks to the invent of (and my allegiance to) social media my ability to watch content seems to have dwindled to something that is interesting, sharable and can be consumed in 140 characters/seconds or less, hence my devotion for short and humourous YouTube clips.

Either way, I am online video’s biggest fan – at least I thought I was until the London Metro informed me that ‘people in the UK watched over 6 billion minutes of streamed online footage last month

You read it right, in April 2011, 26.9million of the UK’s finest watched and streamed up to 6.27billion minutes of online footage from either home or work – most of which was streamed from YouTube.

It seems that online video is giving the old TV a run for it’s viewership money – at least that’s what I thought. According to a recent study of 50, 000 people and their internet habits, our online viewing still lags behind our traditional TV watching, which currently racks up to an average of 24 hours – per person, each week.

My jaw dropped when I read this stat but then I thought back to the month of April and all the events that took place and I couldn’t help but feel that I must have made a dent in my own personal 24 hour TV watching schedule.

Of course we all remember the magical moment when we saw Wills and Kate become the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and who could forget the Eurovision hype, which later saw Azerbaijan take the title – maybe next year Jedward. I’m no football expert but I imagine there were a few juicy premiership games that lead to more than a couple of TV sets being switched on.

So either 11, 000 years of online video consumption in one month is alot or is too little when compared to our love for the TV. At this point I simply can’t decide, but I know which side of the consumption fence I’m on. Team online video all the way.

Online vs iOS

So, the BBC is making cut backs across online, reducing budget by a quarter and making 360 redundancies.

At the same time, the iPlayer apps for iOS are on the verge of being completed. Speculative rumour has it, the iPad and iPhone will be covered by the end of February.

The Guardian tells us the cost of developing its own iPhone news app is high, so high the clever accounting types have introduced a subscription to cover ongoing development. Developing a news app and adapting the iPlayer to mobile devices are two different things, but presumably the iPlayer app development is also costly. With 12 months and counting between announcement and release, it’s not much of a leap to think there’s been a few hiccups on the way. And hiccups cost money.

With the online budget getting chopped, is the Beeb investing in a mobile Internet future because outgoing Erik Huggers and his ilk see mobile media consumption surpassing online? Could be. The one downer to their plan: with a 12+ month development lead on an iPhone app, how long will it take to get iPlayer up on Android and other mobile OSs? I’d start working on it now boys.