Nov 10

Berners-Lee vs Murdoch & Jobs

All seem agreed that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is set to launch an iPad-only digital “newspaper” in alliance with Apple very soon. There’s been no denial of obviously well-sourced indications about the price (99 cents or 62p a week), the editorial formula (“a tabloid sensibility with a broadsheet intelligence”) or the likely editor (Jesse Angelo of the New York Post).

No one should complain about Murdoch’s willingness to experiment. He may have come late to the web and he has made some mistakes. But he is laudably unsentimental about dumping an error once it’s clear that it is wrong. He cans the project and moves on to something else.

So I look forward to seeing this tryout. Murdoch plus Steve Jobs is a market-moving alliance by any measure. Their attempt to break the mould will test in an interesting fashion what is becoming a pivotal issue about the new public space which the web is creating.

The odd thing about the iPad-only project (apparently named the “Daily”) is that it sounds very much as if it goes directly against the grain of the web. It is perhaps the most ambitious attempt yet made to reproduce the conditions of print in a digital environment. The content won’t be on the web, only on the iPad. You can only get it by paying one way. Presumably, the content won’t link to much, or anything, else.

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Jul 10

Taking a (little) brick out of the paywall

The past few days brought not one but two collisions with the paywall at The Times (for the first of these see post immediately below). On Saturday, the paper printed a short review they’d commissioned of Clay Shirky’s new book Cognitive Surplus in the Weekend Review section.

Shirky is the subject of occasional mentions and links in this blog and I’d have liked to link to my review. I can provide it here but of course you have to subscribe to The Times to read it. As an experiment, I’ve pasted the text I filed to The Times at the foot of this post. You can read it for free as long as The Times doesn’t object.

Let’s be clear why I doing this test. I’m not against charging for editorial content, just as I’m not against paying cash for a printed paper. Copyright belongs to the paper since the review was commissioned and submitted normally.

I’m trying to underline two connected points about paywalls. The Times (disclosure: I worked for the paper until last year) now operates what I call an “extreme paywall”: the charge applies to everything except the front page. Behind the barrier sit millions of fragments of information, ranging from the important to the specialist to the insignificant. A newspaper website is simultaneously a rolling news site  and a huge data mountain, an encyclopaedia of current affairs, frequently updated.

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