Friday, 26 March 2010

The Times They are a Chargin'


Or why the Times Online business model is turning me off

Or after 22 years readership the grand divorce

Younger readers may not realise this but when I first attended an institute of Higher Education my day started in the University Library in the newspaper and periodical sectio scanning the newspapers. Back then they were all broadsheets none of this Berliner or Tabloid format. The reason being that 22 years ago the papers were not online. Their archives where available on microfilm or microfiche after a few months, or in a filing cabinet in the Library until they were available.

I was studying Economics and in our first week we were told, no instructed, no make that ordered to read the Financial Times plus at least two other papers from different parts of the political spectrum. I chose all three of the The Times, The Guardian and The Independent but for the one I used my student discount to buy and have as my own I chose The Times. One of my shelves in my bedroom became my own catalogue of the back issues for that year and I had a card index or relevant stories. Oh how Google would have made my student days easier.

The reason I'd chosen the Times was not because of its 'balanced' reporting, nor was its political view closest to my own, but because it had the fullest sports section. I even got to see the Northern Irish football results on a Monday morning, almost collapsing one morning in my first year when Bangor where third in the league. I called home to clarify this wasn't an early April Fool joke.

Therefore as Caron has pointed out the news that News International are going to charge for their online edition is making me rethink. I still buy a morning paper every morning and skim the others online. My morning blog post in usually inspired from what I have read or seen on the early BBC breakfast news.It normally gets written up on the bus, it usually includes some quote or other. Obviously I'm cutting and pasting those and linking to the source material

Now if I'm already paying a pound a day for a paper copy of the Time I'm loathe to pay an additional pound a day or £2 a week for an occasional (actually frequent) quote. I only visit the pages online I generally have read in the paper copy for the reason of capturing a quote. I'm also not going to direct my readers to a subscription only service.Therefore now that the Time is not cheaper than the Guardian, and is actually more expensive than the Scotsman now in paper form I'm likely from June to switch my reading habits.

You will have already seen a shift in my linking habits as New International have flagged this potential online charging service. I suspect many other bloggers will follow suit and you wonder just what sort of impact that will have on the Times' online footfall. Knowing the number of out clicks that I get that go to the news sources quoted multiplied by the number of blogs out there it would be quite high I imagine, plus the casual reader will not be willing to chip a pound for browsing.

It is a pity that the Times don't seem to get the media in the 21st Century. The Scotsman only have some articles that premium subscribers have to pay for. Thinks like editorials and comments and certain columnists for example, the bulk of 'the news'is freely available online.

Maybe the Times are wanting us all to go back to that image of huddling in the library to read our newspapers in the online sections. Instead of wrestling with broadsheets and newsprint struggling with the indexing system.

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