How long will The Times keep its paywall….

My current morning routine as I sit on the tube into the office is to flick through Twitter and Facebook and click and open any interesting news articles that I find. That way, when I go underground and lose The Today programme I read through news from many sources – the Guardian, Telegraph, BBC, and even the New York Times. I doubt if I’m the only news fiend that does this.

This morning I noticed that it was never The Times.

Despite being a paid subscriber (which really I have to be to be in my job) articles rarely crop up from The Times. And that got me wondering about the paywall. I’ve been critical of The Times paywall before (see here) but it seemed to be bucking the trend and reports suggest that it is making money through the Hard Wall. But surely it can’t be sustainable. There cannot be enough loyal readers, who only want the Times to keep it up. With so much traffic now going to The Times’ competitors via social media, so much ad spend being lost, it can’t be long until – like its sister paper The Sun – we wake up one morning to find the paywall has fallen.

That said, it doesn’t have to come completely down. I would suggest that the model adopted by the Telegraph or the New York Times is a better option (a limited number of articles for free before the paywall hits). That way you get the loyal customer bases subscribing and the more fickle SM crowd ad spend. Seems pretty sensible to me.

I wonder how much of the Times position is now stubbornness on behalf of the owner.


A blog post by me: “The paywall comes down…”

So last week The Sun confirmed that it will be pulling down its paywall at the end of the month. Shame I wasn’t blogging back in 2013, as back then I didn’t think it would work for The Sun so this could have been a ‘I told you so’ follow up post.

Anyway, I just couldn’t see where they would get subscribers from and why would people pay to subscribe when the content is available online for free. The only newspaper paywall I do agree with is that of the Financial Times. It offers unique content that isn’t available elsewhere. It is the key publication for the financial sector, with news and content that isn’t available anywhere else (to an extent anyway…), I doubt there are many financial professionals that don’t have access.

Despite being a news junky I personally don’t subscribe to any of the paywalls – it is only through corporate subscriptions of clients or employers that I’ve gained access. I wonder how many of the subscribers are relevant business/PR departments compared to dedicated consumers. Similar to the large number of (I expect) viewers of the 24- hour news channels being media types.

Interestingly enough, I was on the Daily Mail mobile website the other day and upon landing was asked if you wanted to view news or showbiz – this showing how they have successfully diversified their audience and that the site is the first port of call for many who would baulk at actually buying and reading the Daily Mail. The Sun behind a paywall was never going to be able to compete, when all the showbiz gossip – one of the key reasons to visit The Sun website and to subscribe – can be found for free on the Daily Mail.

The Telegraph have installed a half paywall, where it’s free up to a number of views – the best of both worlds if you like as they can still get the advertising revenue not available to full paywall publications (much smaller numbers of visitors means much smaller advertising revenue), but still get the subscription income from their heavy users (who subscribe) plus all the additional customer data it gathers. 2014 readership figures show about 16m monthly visitors, similar to Guardian that doesn’t have a paywall… Whether it will be sustained we’ll have to wait and see.

That said, David Dinsmore, COO of News UK (who own The Sun) said on the BBC’s Media Show last week that they had 225,000 subscribers, which is pretty good, and more than I would have expected. The difficulty according to Dinsmore was the cost of acquiring them.

He also claims that there are no plans to bring down the paywall on the Times and Sunday Times, although I’m not convinced that it will last that much longer. Like The Sun, and unlike the Financial Times, it is general news. Yes, there will be some exclusives and certain, quality commentators, but it is news you can get elsewhere on the internet or in other newspapers.

The only way I see paywalls actually working is if all the major newspapers put up paywalls and there wasn’t any advertising only options. And even that is not guaranteed as it would just open up opportunities to new entrants.

So I still don’t have the answer as to how we’re going to continue to fund the UK’s quality journalism, but I’m pretty sure paywalls are not the answer (but don’t think that I’ve stopped trying to figure it out…)

Here’s the BBC Media Show Podcast:

And more from the Guardian on the issue (No paywall here):

2014 Readership figures:

Blog post: Leveson Ignored – there remains something rotten with our famous press.

So this was written a few weeks ago, and then I went on holiday. So it’s a bit out of date now, but considering I took the time to write it, I thought might as well post it… Better late than never and all that.


 So the phoney General Election campaign is under way, and worryingly we have another 70 odd days to sit through.

One thing we can be sure of is that the right wing press (so most of it) are going to spend the next three months personally attacking Labour’s Ed Miliband. The vitriol and abuse has already been unpleasant and ferocious.

The Guardian Newspaper’s Roy Greenslade explains it well here:

But what we witnessed last week has gone to a new low, and just highlights how little has changed in the behaviour of our Press since the Leveson enquiry and report. It is quite clear that Leveson has been ignored and that there remains something rotten at the core of our Press.

Whatever your politics, and whatever you think of Labour’s embattled leader Ed Miliband (yeah he is a bit weird) it is hard to defend two stories this week. Both from the Daily Mail which were quite simply wrong. Firstly we had a front page splash that Miliband, after a week of his attacks on tax dodgers and HSBC, had dodged tax on his parents’ house! LINK what a hypocrite cries the Mail! Except he didn’t avoid tax on the house. It was sold in 1995 and full tax was paid on the sale, so he didn’t avoid any tax.

The Guardian explains the situation here:

Then a few days later we had Miliband comparing tax avoidance to the Milly Dowler murder! LINK

How horrific to try and make political capital over a young girl’s murder. Except he didn’t say it. Nor did anyone associated with him. In fact it was BBC Political Correspondent (and former President of Conservative Youth Group…) Nick Robinson who suggested the link (LINK). Once Robinson explained what he meant, that he was not quoting any Labour person, did the Mail (and other publications, as they were not alone) correct their reports or apologise to Milliband?? No, of course they didn’t.

In fact the next day it continued. Despite Nick Robinson explaining that it hadn’t been said by Labour aides or Milliband, the Daily Mail still published a piece by Amanda Platell repeating both the above stories as if they were true (despite them both being fundamentally wrong). LINK

Here is Huffington Post’s take on the issue:

So now it’s not just personal attacks on Milliband. It’s not just digging up any stories to attack a Leader of the Opposition, but now it is making up stories and not correcting factual inaccuracies.

Is this the behaviour of a ‘free’ and independent press?? Is this who we want holding our Government to account?

And of course it’s not only the Daily Mail. And it’s not only Milliband. Recently comedian Russell Brand has been attacking the corporations, the press and trying to stand up for the small guy. This time it is The Sun who has taken up against him and had him on the front cover (and not in a positive way) – including attacking him personally because his Landlord doesn’t pay tax (or avoids paying tax). Why is Russell Brand responsible for what his Landlord does? How is that relevant to his beliefs and protests?

As if this isn’t enough, we’ve now have Peter Oborne making some startling and very worrying claims about the Telegraph, while resigning from working for the newspaper.

While I would hardly say I am a fan, I always found him honest and thorough. If true, this just shows what a sorry state our ‘free’ press is currently in.

He claims that as the Telegraph takes huge advertising money from HSBC, editorially they have tapered their attacks on their very dodgy tax dealings.

His Oborne’s piece in full:

A quick look at recent coverage does appear to back Oborne up, but this is pretty outrageous when you consider the Telegraph’s reaction to the Leveson proposals (link)

It just goes to show that despite Leveson, there remains something rotten at the heart of the UK’s ‘free’ press.

Here’s a good piece by Roy Greenslade on the telegraph advertising issue and the alternatives:

Journalists – correct your mistakes please.

I’ve been criticising PR people in my blog recently, so I thought it was time to talk about journalists.

The other evening I was in the Thirsty Bear in Southwark, and I was reminded of an article I saw on the Independent’s website. It claimed to have found the UK’s first ever pub that allowed you to pour your own pint at your table via an Ipad attached to said table. The “new” system has been installed in a pub in Wales called The Westbourne.

As I sat there I recalled a time, about 8 or so months ago when I was sitting in the Thirsty Bear, pouring my own pints and ordering food from an Ipad. So clearly the Independent were wrong. I mentioned this on their Twitter feed. The Thirsty Bear mentioned it on their Twitter feed (understandly considering they’ve been offering the same system for more than a year.) Some people mentioned in the comment section below the story.

So despite it being pointed out that the story is just plain wrong, still the story sits on their website without clarification or correction.

As I mentioned above I’ve been critical of PR professionals a bit recently, but this shows that journalism isn’t without its problems. I appreciate that this isn’t a big important story but accuracy is still important and this article is wrong and it’s been pointed out that it is wrong.

I recall reading Nick Davies’ Flat Earth News and the issue with Churnalism and this seems like an example of a journalist taking a press release and printing without fact checking.

 We all must do better.

Here’s the offending article for info:

And do visit one of the first pubs where you can pour your own beer and order off an IPAD –

And if you’re interested in reading more about Churnalism:

Why are we not listening to journalists about how to best engage with them???

I despair. I absolutely despair. How is it, that in 2014, there are still PRs and PR agencies out there that are spamming journalists with irrelevant and non-newsworthy press releases and stories?? And even worst, why are there still PRs and PR Agencies that are phoning journalists asking if they have received a press release! In what world is this going to be effective??

This is what the latest research from DWPub found, who published the results of a survey into “What do journalists think of PR people”. What bothers me so much is that so little has changed in the ten or so years I’ve been involved in PR. Ten years ago journalists were telling me NOT to call and ask if they had received a press release. Ten years ago journalists were telling me to RESEARCH the publication and stories that they penned and to make sure that I was pitching RELEVANT information and stories. And no doubt this same conversation has been going on for decades in one way or another.

No wonder the relationship between journalists and PR types is so strained.

According to the research, 80% of journalists said that “Lack of understanding of your publication and subject area” is their greatest frustration with PR people. As DWPub’s own analysis says:

“There’s a pattern emerging – all they (journalists) really want is for the PR to know what they cover and to make sure whatever they’re pitching is relevant and newsworthy”

Which, lets be honest, isn’t a lot to ask.

But it’s the agencies that are to blame. Junior PR types are not born with the idea to follow up an email (within a few minutes) with a call to ask if the journalists received the press release – they are being instructed by their experienced comrades. Mass emailing of a release to hundreds of journalists is being pushed from the top of these agencies (including some I’ve recently worked with – see my recent post on saying no) for reasons that escape me. Please stop.

So please – as an industry – lets all heed this advice from journalists. After all, we all want positive coverage, so lets all stop phoning journalists to ask if they received a press release (they did!) and start taking a moment to be sure that the story is newsworthy, and that it is relevant for both the journalist and the publication.

I’ll leave you with a favourite comment highlighted in the report, which kinda sums up my (and the journalists) point:

Pitch relevant news to the relevant publication. I can’t believe we still get PRs calling the news desk of the Daily Star and asking for our Fine Arts editor!”

Here’s a link to the full survey:

And DWPub’s own press release (lets hope they didn’t do a mass email sell-in with follow up phone call: