This week, pay walls are both a complete success and a total failure.
Pay Wall Smack Down
[Fake announcer voice] In a world where newspapers battle to stay alive, only the most dedicated will prevail. Tired, broken and sick of being taken for granted, newspapers want revenge and WILL MAKE YOU PAY!
In the battle to determine the viability of newspaper pay walls, two leading authorities challenge each other to a smack down of words and well, more words. We bring you Clay Shirky, writer, consultant and Internet guru versus Rupert Murdoch, billionaire and News Corporation Chairman and CEO.
Boxing metaphors aside, this week the Guardian’s Decca Aitkenhead interviewed Shirky about newspapers, creativity and yes, pay walls. The article outlines Shirky’s concern about instituting paid access to the news.
Ultimately, it comes down to this. Shirky sees the reader as a creator and Murdoch sees the reader as a consumer. Shirky argues
that people are more creative and generous than we had ever imagined, and would rather use their free time participating in amateur online activities such as Wikipedia – for no financial reward – because they satisfy the primal human urge for creativity and connectedness.
In response, Chris Dannen of BNet defended Murdoch and his pay walls, saying that
…news, in general — is predicated on timeliness: the first people out of the gate with a hot story get the reward of a monstrous wave of traffic, sending advertising dollars through the roof. This is why blogs have been pulping the newspaper sites for the last few years: they’re faster on the draw, even when they’re not the primary source of the reporting, and they SEO and headline their posts to get maximum exposure.
If that sounds more like an argument against newspapers, hold on, Dannen goes on to say that the playing field between blogs and newspapers is now even because
newspapers and magazines have begun hiring Web-savvy editorial staff and technologists, it’s becoming harder for blogs to leverage their agility.
He continues on saying that breaking news requires well-paid journalists, who won’t work for free. Yet in order to finance news bureaus around the world that will bring quality, breaking news, it takes money and readers will pay. In other words, breaking news isn’t a commodity, it’s a luxury. And like most luxury items, the high price tag is worth it.
Pay walls will succeed because it turns news into an elite corporate product or it will fail for the same reason. Either way, we can’t wait to see what happens next.
The Guardian Promotes its Content to via WordPress Plugin
In other news, the Guardian has begun offering free syndicated content to bloggers via a WordPress plugin. The Guardian News Feed offers bloggers the full range of Guardian content via an internal WordPress menu system, and in return bloggers must agree not to edit the content, and run a Guardian logo and Guardian ad with it.
The WordPress plugin is a part of Guardian Open Platform, which took home a Digital Publishing Award for best launch and is just another example of how the Guardian plans to innovate digital publishing. While many other publishers consider ways to prevent bloggers from using and sharing their content, the Guardian has gone out of their way to let bloggers use theirs.