Behind the Digger’s Paywall

The FT has an interesting peek behind the impending Murdoch paywall.

“It looks a lot like a newspaper, which I don’t think we’re apologising for,” said Tom Whitwell, assistant editor of the Times. “The article pages we think are simple and clean, and easy to read.”

He talks of a “news hierarchy”, with fewer stories thrown at the reader than most newspaper websites. “We are not going to show you all the news,” he says, comparing that favourably with “Google News showing you 4,000 versions of the same thing. We are giving you our take on the news.”

The Times’ stories will not be among those 4,000, with not even a headline visible in the Google index (or indeed that of any other search engine). Peculiarly, the existing TimesOnline site will live on after the paywall goes up for an indeterminate time, although it won’t be updated – an admission, perhaps, of how baked into the web its links already are.

The funniest thing in the piece is the burbling of Danny Finkelstein, the engaging Times Comment Editor:

“We can project the Times with all its tradition and iconography, but on the web,” he enthused.

Few of the Times employees presenting their plans used the word ‘paywall’ unprompted. But Mr Finkelstein insisted this barrier would not prevent him from sharing links to his articles on Twitter or cut the newspaper out of a wider online conversation. Rivals without the protection of a paywall “won’t go viral, they will go out of business”, he said.

Although there were hints that extracts might occasionally be visible to non-subscribers in the future, the Times’ content will remain tightly locked up with not even a first paragraph to tease in new customers. This apparently aids the “clarity” of the offering, in contrast to the less binary model offered by the Wall Street Journal and the FT.

“We are unashamed about this,” said Mr Finkelstein. “We are trying to make people pay for the journalism…. I want my employer to be paid for the intellectual property they are paying me for.”

Aw, shucks. It was nice knowing these guys. But I guess they’ll find jobs outside the paywall.

I liked what Steve Hewlett said about it on the Today programme this morning. To paraphrase him, everyone in the newspaper business is cheering them on and hoping it will work — but thinking that it won’t.