A fierce proponent that newspapers need to charge for content, even if available online, Rupert Murdoch is putting your money where his mouth is. News Corp. papers, the Times of London and the Sunday Times will establish a paywall and start charging online readers as of June 2010.
The planned fees are not significant --£1 for one day's access or £2 for one week's access for those who don't subscribe to the print edition. (Print subscribers will get free online access.)
What is significant, is that, as AdAge noted in an article, "New Test for Paid Content as Competing News Sites Remain Free,"competitors to the Times of London "such as The Guardian, The Daily Mail and The Daily Mirror remain free for all comers." (It's interesting to note that AdAge offers a hybrid approach, with some free articles and some available behind a paywall.)
So will readers pay for online access to the Times of London, when they are not used to paying for content? Will they merely shift to competing online sites? Or will those sites start charging online readers for access?
There are some who think Murdoch is making a bad decision. Well, not just a bad decision. TechCrunch sees it as evidence of The Madness of King Rupert.
My guess: That more paywalls are inevitable because newspapers need the revenue stream, and can't afford to give away content. We're a long way from the dot-com era, when sticky eyeballs were everything. They're still important, but now publishers need those eyeballs to contribute more than just boosting ad rates.
At the very least, this latest move continues to validate our prediction in calling 2010 the year of the online subscription.