Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Behind the Paywall

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  • Joanna,

    Are you trying to say you wouldn't like a beautifully presented application in which to read Karl Du Fresne's and Deborah Hill Cone's musings? Come on..

    Would set application contain an accelerometor with which to gauge how hard you punch it every time you read something by them? Cos if so, then count me in!

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 746 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    A head/desk simulator could work.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Joanna,

    A head/desk simulator could work.

    Also I'd like to drag'n drop away sections that I'd never read, like sports and racing and normally business, and swoosh them away with a satisfying flick.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 746 posts Report Reply

  • Jamie Anstice,

    [T]he Times insists average duration of visits has stayed relatively consistent

    Wearing my web analytics hat, most web analytics systems only track a user once per page (as close to the start of the page load as possible), and time-on-page is the difference between the load time of one page, and the load time of the next. The last page of the visit doesn't have a next page, so there's no time recorded for that page, and visit duration is really time-on-site-except-for-the-last-page. Single page visits tend not to contribute to the average-time-on-site at all (just like your batting average in cricket doesn't get divided by your not-outs).

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 16 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Jamie, thank you -- that's very interesting.

    It does surprise me that The Guardian and the FT will write this stories without getting technical background from their own web people, who'd be able to tell them.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • 81stcolumn,

    Are you trying to say you wouldn't like a beautifully presented application in which to read Karl Du Fresne's and Deborah Hill Cone's musings? Come on..

    Pig with lipstick on is still a ...........

    Can anyone direct me to something that explains why a pay per page plug-in system wouldn't work ?

    Nawthshaw • Since Nov 2006 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • Brenda Leeuwenberg,

    Wired on the iPad is superb. Have happily given up the paper version to subscribe to this one. Also the BBC (free) iPad version is excellent to use.

    Seems the iPad is ideal for the magazine format. Will pay for the convenience and ease of use.

    Paying for news though, when it's out there for free in so many places - that's a tougher proposition.

    Wellington • Since Oct 2008 • 41 posts Report Reply

  • SteveH,

    Wearing my web analytics hat, most web analytics systems only track a user once per page (as close to the start of the page load as possible), and time-on-page is the difference between the load time of one page, and the load time of the next.

    I read online papers like this: I go to the main page and middle-click all the stories of interest to open them in new tabs and then read them one by one closing each one as I go. It sounds like the analytics systems are going to think that I'm an extremely fast reader with very little time on the site. Has anyone done any research as to how accurate the time on site statistics are? It sounds like they may be so inaccurate as to be basically worthless.

    Since Sep 2009 • 444 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    My understanding of the time stats was that if I go and read an essay that is on a single page, and take two hours to do it, then either close the browser tab or exit the page via anything other than a link on the page itself, it counts as a visit with a duration of zero seconds. I may be wrong, but that's how it was explained to me.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Brenda Leeuwenberg,

    My understanding of the time stats was that if I go and read an essay that is on a single page, and take two hours to do it, then either close the browser tab or exit the page via anything other than a link on the page itself, it counts as a visit with a duration of zero seconds. I may be wrong, but that's how it was explained to me.

    This is exactly right and it's a total pain in the arse. When you're supposed to report on 'time on site' as a measure, and you know that it's essentially meaningless ...

    Wellington • Since Oct 2008 • 41 posts Report Reply

  • Tristan,

    The Mail online has not less than 9 bikini pictures on their front page today... you certainly cant excuse them of nor playing to thier auidance!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 221 posts Report Reply

  • Phil Lyth,

    head/desk simulator

    We must ask Craig, he would be the obvious person to know if this already exists . . .

    Wellington • Since Apr 2009 • 458 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    Here's my take on why News Ltd. is so keen to shut down the BBC's online news provision:

    So far, there are only two options for monetising content; ad-supported or subscription. The former doesn't seem to work well enough, and the latter doesn't seem to work at all (since when users encounter a paywall, they usually - as mentioned - just go elsewhere).

    Consolidation of media is such that one day we will wake up and find that a large proportion of the online media has instituted a group paywall, where one subscription buys access to the sites of all members.

    Those operators outside of the group will wither over time, due to lack of income and associated inability to do a good job, thus furthering the position of strength of those inside. Income from the subscription could easily be divided proportionately among members.

    The fly in the ointment for such a system is operations like the BBC, which are largely taxpayer funded, and would be able to continue to prosper outside the system and therefore work against forcing readers to join.

    I'm not finding myself able to explain this very succinctly, but I've spent an hour on it and I'm sure you get the point. It's somewhat analagous to workers unionising.

    I'm certainly not suggesting that this would be the best result for the consumer/citizen, but feel that it is inevitable that this will be tried. The current landscape (ad-supported with occasional forays into paywalls) just seems like a slow and certain death for them.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Bernard Hickey,

    Nice piece Russell
    I'm curious too at how these paywalls work. I'm similarly sceptical (although slightly fascinated) by Mr Woolf's views.
    I wonder about the NBR's success. I agree with the commenter on the NBR. Chris is a hero, but the rest...
    I see he's scrambling now to get an iPad app ready for Friday.
    I'm not so sure about iPad.
    TradeMe, for example, are very sceptical about iPhones and iPads, given there are so few actually being used by a large number of people. That will change, I suppose.
    I reckon the future for online journalism is about having fantastic conversation starters and then starting great conversations between interesting people (with money to spend). Supported by advertising and/or donations. I don't think the iPad is the saviour for these.
    I agree with your suggestions that paywalls shut down conversations.
    cheers
    Bernard

    Since May 2008 • 12 posts Report Reply

  • Phil Lyth,

    As we are talking about the Daily Mail, I must reprise Conor's great link from last month: 'just fantastic' he said.


    Wellington • Since Apr 2009 • 458 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    It's a shame they're not real headlines, but it really is very good.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Llewellyn,

    Re: the Sunday Times. Let me just say that it will be a rather bracing day in hell before I pay money to read Stephen Jones ....

    Mt Albert • Since Nov 2006 • 399 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    That's an interesting theory 3410. I would imagine that the base for these would be through the owners. So and so owns 60 papers and magazines in a bunch of different markets. The owner puts the waywall over all of those individual media and paying $10/week gets you full access to all of them. A smaller fee gets you access to your local paper and three or four others.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    The internet killing newspaper profits doesn't really seem like that bad an outcome to me. News is simply not a scarce commodity anymore.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    See, that's just madness. News is not a scarce commodity, but good reporting is, and the problem of how to pay for it is a very real one. Mitchell puts it quite succinctly in his Guardian piece, I thought: journalism plus a lively blogosphere is great; the latter without the former is just a chilling prospect.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I think the risk is killing off local journalism.

    Which might not be great now, but imagine if newspapers can no longer survive by belonging to a city. You might end up with two competing news organisations producing a national daily paper, with a local insert of a page of local news in order to save money.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    I reckon the future for online journalism is about having fantastic conversation starters and then starting great conversations between interesting people (with money to spend). Supported by advertising and/or donations. I don't think the iPad is the saviour for these.

    You mean like ... Public Address!

    And why wouldn't it work for the iPAD? The iPAD is just a medium, a very sexy cool medium but in the end just a place to view content. Where I think the iPAD will win is that it just may be the right size. Small enough to go in a bag, large enough for my eyes to read the text and to see good pictures if that makes it the perfect device for viewing the news then it may well save journalists, assuming you can find any of those.

    And the most important question is

    Where is the PAS app?

    As for how will journalists make money out of internet news, I don't think we've seen the answer yet. One part of the answer I suspect is that journalists will make money more directly from people who want to read stuff from a particular journalist rather than from a business entity.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Jamie Anstice,

    This is exactly right and it's a total pain in the arse. When you're supposed to report on 'time on site' as a measure, and you know that it's essentially meaningless ...

    Despite all the high-precision numbers, web analytics is more like meteorology than accounting (or possibly numerology) - but without a century of theoretical underpinning. Analytics isn't about graphs and tables of numbers, it's about telling stories (grounded in some sampled version of the truth), and then working from those stories to evaluate where you've come from, and work out directions to go next.

    Analytics lives in a gray area between IT & marketing - the stories you can (easily) tell aren't the ones that the IT people need to hear, and they often discount web analytics because of this, which is unfortunate as there's a often a reasonably high level of integration required to plug in an analytics tool (or two or three) to collect enough data to tell good stories.

    Measures like time on site are pretty poor proxies for measuring site success (are longer visits good because the user is engaged, or bad because content is hard to find and understand?) - better is to work out key actions for your site, then (as close as possible) directly measure these actions, and leave aside all the rest for slicing up your key action measures to tell good stories.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 16 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    I reckon the future for online journalism is about having fantastic conversation starters and then starting great conversations between interesting people (with money to spend).

    Who's doing the investigative reporting while everybody is busy doing the commentary?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Graham,

    No time to write what I'd say on this right now, so in the meantime here's a thing. I think PAS might be the sort of thing that could benefit from this.

    Which looks interesting but I couldn't actually get them to take my money.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 118 posts Report Reply

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