Paywalls, in Norwegian

Kristine Lowe of the Norwegian Online News Association’s blog, picked up on my earlier post on paywalls.

I speak a little Swedish, so I can just about understand a little Norwegian. But only just. So please forgive me if I’ve misunderstood.

I’m not saying that the Times’ paywall system is necessarily the best answer. But I do think the idea that it will create a smaller, tighter, more intimate community is a compelling one. A good user community is certainly a goal worth striving for. And it’s something I hadn’t heard discussed with reference to paywalls until I heard Tom Whitwell talk about it at news:rewired.

Is it a goal worth sacrificing 90% of readership for?

I don’t know. There are other ways to build community, too.

Walling off the Times will undoubtedly change its community dynamics profoundly. It will excise the Times from the wider community debate on current issues around the internet. It will create a smaller, more selective community debate within the paywall, with asymmetric linking (people inside will be able to link out, but people outside won’t be able to link in).

This fact alone changes everything, because it’s all about the links.

But a good user community is something that can make a site a destination in its own right. Like I said, it’s worth striving for.

As for the people outside the paywall: the public value they receive from Times journalism is reduced to zero. Or is it? Any big stories and scoops the Times unearths will inevitably be followed up by free news sources like the BBC. There’s not much they can do to stop other companies from calling their sources. No exclusive they get will stay that way for long, with an interconnected community of journalists on the job.

Ironically, the bigger the scoop, the harder it will be to keep inside the paywall.  So I wonder where that puts the Times in the news ecosystem.

It’s time to wait and see. The paywall is supposed to go up today (though apparently for some people the gates are still open for now). The wall may make the Times a profitable hub of good value journalism with a vibrant, intimate user community. It may isolate the Times from the wider debate and turn its user community into an incestuous Murdochian backwater. Or, maybe, the Times will end up somewhere in between.

I don’t think it’s as simple a case as good vs. evil, paywalls vs. open internet. I think that paywalls are a special solution that already works for some sites and may work for others.

I’ll be following further developments with great interest.

2 thoughts on “Paywalls, in Norwegian

  1. I did like your comments on the session on paywalls, and what you highlighted from Whitwell’s presentation, which is why I linked to it in my post. As you I’m intrigued by how the the paywall will affect the comment section and whether Times will be able to build stronger, more defined and more active communities behind the paywall. My only minor reservation is whether this move will eradicate trolls and such. In my experience, as someone who has done stints working both as a citizien journalism editor and moderator, a substantial per centage of the people who are rude, obnoxious, racist etc in the comment section are elderly, not very net-savy people who can be the nicest people in real life: they just don’t fully understand how they come across online. I’m not so sure a paywall will eradicate those, because some of them may be very loyal to the brand. The paywall will change the community dynamics though, so as you I think it will be very interesting to see how things develope. Interested enough to pay to see how things play out behind the paywall? That I’m not so sure about. Or perhaps I will, we’ll see…

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