26 Oct 2011

News Ltd Journos On Wrong Side Of Paywall

By Adam Brereton
It might be a new digital experience for readers but News Ltd staff are outraged that they'll have to pay to access their own work, reports Adam Brereton
News Limited staff are unhappy after being required to pay to read their own content behind The Australian's new paywall. In an email sent to News staff last week, corporate affairs have offered the same three-month trial being marketed to ordinary punters, but with a "special staff discount of up to 50 per cent".

One News Limited employee told New Matilda he thought the payment was "a bit of a joke ... why should we have to pay for something we worked to produce?"

Although staff have been aware of the switch to paywalled content for some months, having to sign up to read their own premier masthead was a development "sprung on us in the last couple of days".

"People aren't happy about it. I mean, we all want the paywall to succeed — at least our company has some direction, unlike Fairfax — but this is a joke."

An internal memo posted on 20 October from News Limited CEO John Hartigan describes the paywall move as "a major step in the creation of a sustainable model for quality journalism in Australia" and reassures staff "All of our research and all the indications are that people will pay for great journalism". No mention was made in the memo of News staff being required to subscribe.

According to New Matilda's source, the "upper echelons" at News analogise the paywall-free relationship of The Australian and its tabloids to the hustle required to get people to pay for cable when they already had free-to-air TV. "We managed to get people to pay for Foxtel, but it remains to be seen whether it'll work on the internet." The Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun sites will remain free for the time being.

The memo also spruiks News' new blog, www.futureofjournalism.com.au. The blog features interviews, mainly from journalists working at The Australian, on the relationship between online and print journalism. In the site's title animation the company maintains that major mastheads remain responsible for driving content across new and social media platforms, a statement that clashes with the requirement that News staff should subscribe to promote their own content on sites like Twitter.

Andrew Birmingham, a former associate published at Fairfax's paywalled Australian Financial Review has pointed out that the pricing plans for digital content — $2.95/week for full digital access, vs $7.95/week for digital + print delivery — send "a clear signal to a rational buyer to abandon print, if they are in a position to do so," but that advertising revenue online, hardly worth the pixels it's displayed on, is unlikely to increase in value behind the paywall: "It's the same audience, just smaller — not exactly a recipe for rate increases. Savvy advertising buyers will have them on toast."

No wonder then, that News' staff will be made to pay.

Workarounds have been found for similar paywalls introduced at other Murdoch papers soon after their introduction. A similar bypass has already been discovered for The Australian's site.


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Posted Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - 16:43

The general public is outraged that News Ltd staff only have to pay 50% to access their own output. Instead they should pay the full price as well as accept pay cuts and penalty rates for the inferior work they are producing.

Posted Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - 19:05

They should pay double. My computer is paywalled against News Ltd's content. The day they pay me to read their drivel and propaganda is the day I read it.

Posted Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - 21:01

If one is to take the fourth estate seriously, it should be a critical part of the ability for residents and citizens to give informed consent. Given such questions about its cost and accessability should come under intense scrutiny, as out-of-pocket expenses for the running of democracy, one might argue, should be relagated to come from tax revenue, and not the individuals left over funds. I believe Australia and many other countries fall short at this very basic question of legitamcy - ease of access and involvement. I have seen in some other countries where the public can access their tax revenue back to create their own not-for-profit mass-media. A friend of mine in Norway is part of a group that did just that, and their project has become a very influential news service as it analyses the factual validty of news content and in particular the spin politicians use to keep the media on task, adn consequently undermining the greater public's effort to sustain a healthy democracy. When you make the core parts of a democracy for profit - does it remain a democracy, or does it begin a steady drift, compounded by other forms of 'acceptable' corruption towards an oligarchy?

Perfidious Rex
Posted Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - 22:44

As far as I am aware, Coles and Woolies don't give their staff free groceries and CommBank and ANZ don't give their staff free home loans.

50% discount seems reasonably generous for a staff discount.

And I'm sure those producing articles will have a copy somewhere so I doubt News Ltd staff are being forced to pay read their own content.

More importantly - it will be interesting to see how subscribers respond to a "pay per view" world. When most stories are available from multiple sources, so unless they start coming up with some interesting stuff of their own they could be in trouble.

Posted Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - 23:00

I would have thought that the main issue here is that News Limited journalists need ready access to news sources.

If what they're writing is inconsistent or overlooks information in another article in a News Limited paper, that is going to make them look careless. It also deprives the paper of opportunities to cross-promote articles.

In addition to believing that News Limited journalists should have access to their own newspapers, I'd think that Fairfax journalists need access too. Of course, News Limited can now deny Fairfax papers a subscription more easily than it could stop them buying the physical newspapers.

Posted Thursday, October 27, 2011 - 00:40

If it's worth reading it will be leaked so paywall everything newsCorp be fine with me.

Perfidious Rex
Posted Thursday, October 27, 2011 - 09:08

Perhaps the journalists who require access could shell out the $70 for the year and either seek reimbursement or at worst a tax deduction?

Posted Thursday, October 27, 2011 - 11:39

What is stupid about this Murdoch paywall is that I can search for a particular Oz's story name through google and it will take me to a free version of that particular story. But if I went through the Oz's website, I would have to pay. It appears that all that hot air Rupert made about Google stealing his content and being detrimental to "quality journalism" is bullshit, as it is proven he needs Google to bring the punters to his rags websites.

Dr Dog
Posted Thursday, October 27, 2011 - 12:54

NewsLtd do need access to real news stories Speed, which is why they probably read the Herald or Age. Certainly there is no point checking your facts in the Telegraph, now is there?

Posted Thursday, October 27, 2011 - 13:35

This is very funny indeed. The same people that are writing the extremist right wing rubbish now have to pay for that rubbish. Oh well News Ltd that's the free market system your addicted to isn't it?

Posted Thursday, October 27, 2011 - 13:52

Lol at your anonymous news ltd staff member have a lame dig at fairfax

Posted Thursday, October 27, 2011 - 14:20

Nice schadenfreude at the prospect of Janet Albrechtsen & co having to pay to read other opinions - mind you, she seldom shows much interest in others' opinions anyway so it probably won't worry her !
Rah for Milton Friedman !!

Posted Thursday, October 27, 2011 - 14:23

This funny in so many ways. I picture News Limited journo uncomfortably realising that its not worth paying to read their own and their peers work. In the spirit of charity i'll point out to said NL hack that s/he can think of subscribing as a form of job insurance, like nodding agreement in editorial=marketing meetings but tax deductible.

Seriously tho, we should all thank Rupert Murdoch for now shielding the public from his constant warmongering & pro-pollution lies. But have they arranged an alternative oxygen supply for their boy Tony Abbott?

Alex Njoo
Posted Thursday, October 27, 2011 - 14:26

Alex Njoo
As someone who belongs to the Design & Construction industry, I would leave if I knew that my industry is implicated in the building of concentration camps or gas ovens. So what's seems to be the problem, News Ltd. journos? You know what to do.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. outrider
Posted Thursday, October 27, 2011 - 16:32

My son and I share The Age and The Australian, which gives me some broader views of what is going on than the one sided progressive' stuff in The Age, which has no conservative commentary, unlike the SMH.
To my amazement one reads that certain items are on the website and to read them I have to sign up (admittedly free at the moment). It is extraordinary that one pays up for the paper and also for entry past the pay wall. I fully understand why print should try to stop freeloaders who only go to the net, but this is perplexing.
And for those of you who couldn't care less. next will be Fairfax.

David Grayling
Posted Thursday, October 27, 2011 - 19:38

I'm amazed by the revelation that News Limited Journalist can read!

Posted Thursday, October 27, 2011 - 20:53

Let's face it Good journos are a thing of the past, Murdoch and his sidekicks are rip of merchants and liars, they can not and will not accept progress they are flogging a dead horse and want us to pay for it and their mistakes/refusal to acccept progress.
I wouldn't even believe the date at the top of the paper or read read their propaganda gutter trash.
In answer to David Grayling: News Limited Journalist can't read, they only look at the pretty pictures.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. ErikH
Posted Friday, October 28, 2011 - 15:26

To the anonymous hack: you can have as much direction as you want but if you still produce drivel, it will still be drivel.

Posted Saturday, October 29, 2011 - 12:12

Or just select, r-click and click on 'search Google for ......'

Posted Wednesday, November 2, 2011 - 00:42

Since school staff can subscribe to the printed Telly for 1c per day I suggest that News Ltd journos call themselves an educational institution - the Murdoch School - and see if they can get a better rate.