Thursday, May 20, 2010

No paywall here - get your Anglican debates free

The axe is falling, slowly, on free access to the iTimes. It likely will fall even on their blogs, including the most famous of them all in the Anglican Communion, Ruth Gledhill's. Here she offers a transcript of a discussion on BBC about the new Times pay-per-view policy and how it might affect her blog:

"It was a bit discombobulating, frankly, to find this blog, which generally manages to stay out of media politics, suddenly 'outed' in this way. But perhaps it is worthy of debate, so here is a transcript of what was said.

JW: 'Our belief is over time people will be prepared to pay small amounts for high-quality content and you won't get that high-quality content in the medium term from other sites.'

AR: 'But I think this is a crucial thing about the changing nature of journalism. The Times has a - again, much as I hate to - no I don't hate to do it because this is the way the new eco-system works - but I am about to link metaphorically to The Times. Ruth Gledhill on The Times is the fantastic religious affairs correspondent. She's a pioneer in blogging. She knows that The Times has a limited appetite for religious affairs stories so she's just gone and, she's created her own site, and she's redefining how you do that kind of journalism. So sometimes she tweets, sometimes she blogs, she links back to pieces in The Times and she then hosts a conversation on her site. Now the moment you put a paywall around your content all that linking mechanism breaks down. Because as you say people suddenly get to The Times site and they find they are going to have to pay 80p and the experience is that only a tiny percentage of people will do that. So by that act of putting up that paywall you take Ruth Gledhill out of that ecosystem of what was a really interesting experiment in journalism. So that's why I think these are fundamental decisions for the way that all journalism is going to be...

JW: 'I'm not sure [the paywall] would take her out. People will buy The Times on a daily basis for a pound. Why wouldn't they pay that to be part of the debate with Ruth Gledhill? If they are that interested I am sure they will.'

AR: 'They never have. That's.....'

The debate then moved on to the New York Times experiment.A paywall was tried there and abandoned after commentators apparently complained they had indeed been taken out of the debate. But next year it is to be tried again.

What do I think? I don't know what to think, except to keep the faith. We'll all know more after we've tried it out for a bit.

There is one thing though.

I've just this past week celebrated 23 years at The Times and in all my time here, I've not known my boss make a mistake."

Much as I have enjoyed Ruth's blog for several years now, I won't be paying a cent or a penny to read it. It's not so much the cost but the fiddly nature of making the payment. There are plenty of other free blogs to view ... and we can probably rely on Simon Sarmiento at Thinking Anglicans to tell us anything important on Ruth's blog!

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