Murdoch’s paywalls don’t work : Mark Scott Reply

Media organisations should ride the internet wave, not try to turn back the tide, according to Mark Scott, the Managing Director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Speaking at the Journalism Education Conference in Sydney, Scott attacked Rupert Murdoch’s firewalls around News content.

The boldest paywall experiment is underway globally with [Murdoch’s] The Times in London. But as Clay Shirky points out, before the paywall went up the two Times websites had
roughly six times more readers than there were print sales of the paper. Post paywall, the web audience is less than a sixth of print sales and the paying web isless than a twentieth of print sales, possibly far less. And at the same time, circulation for the print editions of these newspapers has continued to decline at the same dramatic rate as other papers in the UK market.

With so much content available free online, there would be a struggle to obtain a price for content, unless it was “extraordinarily distinctive”. In the UK, because non-subscribers could not read Times stories forwarded by friends or those linked through Twitter or Facebook, the stories remained locked in a very limited and narrow world speaking only to itself.

Lock yourself away – out of the conversation, out of the discussion, untweeted, unlinked, unreferenced – and you might find yourself unloved. Out of sight, out of
mind – and maybe out of business.

Mr Scott also criticised an editorial in the Australian which described Twitter on ABC’s Q@A program, as the “the dunny-door graffiti of the digital age”.

The whole idea of incorporating the Twitter feed came, in fact, from the Q&A audience – they were tweeting about Q&A before we’d even promoted the hashtag.

Scott said that perhaps the Australian had regretted “the fun they had exaggerating, or felt it might come back to haunt them”. The comment had been removed from The Australian online, he said.

Journalists were no longer the only repository of knowledge or experience, he said. You no longer needed to rely on a handful of newspapers editors who decided what you could read. You could go there directly. There were now two types of newsrooms operating; traditional ones which were largely closed and the virtual one which was accessible to almost everyone. This diversity of sources and information contributed to a wider public debate. Journalists however could benefit by interacting with audiences in ways which would have been inconceivable a decade ago.

Journalism’s golden era was not in the past, he said. It might be in a possible future.


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