The Guardian editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, has delivered a riposte to Rupert Murdoch’s campaign to introduce paywalls to newspaper websites, claiming that it could lead the industry to a “sleepwalk into oblivion”…
Last year Murdoch revealed that he would introduce charges for access to all his news websites, including the Times, Sunday Times and the News of the World by this summer. Last week the New York Times confirmed that it too would introduce a paywall to its website by 2011.
Rusbridger pointed out that News Corp has frequently used the price of news to attack rivals. “Murdoch, who has in his time flirted with free models and who has ruthlessly cut the price of his papers to below cost in order to win audiences or drive out competition (‘reach before revenue’, as it wasn’t called back when he slashed the price of the Times to as low as 10p), this same Rupert Murdoch is being very vocal in asserting that the reader must pay a proper sum for content – whether in print or digitally,” he said.
“Fleet Street is the birthplace of the tradition of a free press that spread around the world. There is an irreversible trend in society today which rather wonderfully continues what we as an industry started – here, in newspapers, in the UK.
“It’s not a ‘digital trend’. It’s a trend about how people are expressing themselves, about how societies will choose to organise themselves, about a new democracy of ideas and information, about changing notions of authority, about the releasing of individual creativity, about resisting the people who want to close down free speech.
“If we turn our back on all this and at the same time conclude that there is nothing to learn from it then, never mind business models, we could be sleepwalking into oblivion…
The Guardian editor told an audience of academics and journalists in London that it is more important than ever to focus on journalism: “If you think about journalism, not business models, you can become rather excited about the future. If you only think about business models you can scare yourself into total paralysis.”
RTFA. Please. If you care to learn about where a major stream of journalism is going on the Web.
Murdoch will relegate his empire to decline and dusty signs along disused secondary roads. Just like a great deal of Route 66 alongside Interstate 40.