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Prime Minister: paywalls don’t work

Gordon Brown

By Hani Megerisi

Posted on 13 Apr 2010 at 11:21

Gordon Brown has dismissed digital paywalls as unworkable.

The Prime Minister said plans to make news readers pay for online content can’t work “in the way that people think… [as] people have got used to getting content without having to pay”.

"People will pay for certain things, and should pay for certain things, but I think there’s a whole sort of element of communication that’s got to be free. People mind paying for basic news,” he added, in an interview with The Radio Times.

His comments come just weeks after News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch announced his British titles would be moving behind a paywall. Both The Times and The Sunday Times will be pay-only from June, with The Sun and The News of the World expected to follow soon.

Murdoch has long accused news aggregators such as Google News of stealing content from newspapers, even threatening to sue sites who offer links to his content.

Brown’s comments come seven months after some of Murdoch’s UK titles publicly switched their allegiances to the Conservatives after backing the Labour party for 12 years. The Sun, which has the highest readership of the national dailies, attacked the Labour Government during the party’s annual conference and announced it was backing the Tories in the General Election.

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User comments

Gordon Brown talking sense shocker!

Wow, I agree with the PM on something. That doesn't happen very often.

By jamesyld on 13 Apr 2010

Another inaccurate headline

Gordon Brown has not said that pay walls don’t work, from your article he has said that they will not work in the way people perceive pay walls to work, not that they will not work full-stop.

Pay walls already exist and do work, a number of sites have them for high value specific content. Think NewScientist.com.

The Prime Minister, from your small article, is simply saying that you can not charge for simple news that adds no value. If you can hear headlines on radio for free or get them online at other sites for free then why would you pay.

However if a website can show to add valuable insight, opinion or additional complimentary services then people are willing and do pay.

By smokinscots on 13 Apr 2010

Also...

If we want high quality, accurate, investigative journalists that can right clean articulate articles then we should have to pay for them.

Otherwise we are going to end up with dumb inaccurate inarticulate blog posts and rants. much like my comments :)

By smokinscots on 13 Apr 2010

Suedehead

"high quality, accurate, investigative journalists that can right clean articulate articles"

Please can you tell the Daily Mail (or insert name of your paper) where they can find some of these.

If I'm going to pay for journalism I want it to to be the cream of the crop - something which rules out a lot of the stuff you find in online newspapers.

By pbryanw on 13 Apr 2010

Suedehead

I couldn't agree more. Journalism has, IMHO, declined greatly in conjunction with the fall in price and the rise in free papers and online content.

By smokinscots on 13 Apr 2010

Gordon Brown speaking the "bleeding obvious".

I have to say I'm really not sure why he's getting involved in this?? Let Murdoch get on with his experiment, and give us a reason why your lot should win the election Brown!

By halsteadk on 13 Apr 2010

Brown versus Murdoch

I was thinking that I might accept a free year's subscription to say 'the Times' if I bought a book from their online book store (They are publishers after all - like Dennis!).

The trouble is, I would have to buy about thirty books a year (one from each publisher) to be able to browse like I do.

By Alperian on 13 Apr 2010

Are you sure ?

I actually think hes right for once on this but why the hell is he sticking his nose in ??

The only reason i can see is to knock Murdoch, perhaps he should have been asked to comment on free papers being distributed at council tax payers expense chock full of Political spin,not news.....

By CumbriaCalling on 13 Apr 2010

When has Brown been right?

Has Gordon Brown ever got anything right? If Gordon says Murdoch will fail, then he'll probably fail the same way he failed with Sky.

By Nash21 on 13 Apr 2010

Hmmm

The Prime Minister said plans to make news readers pay for online content can’t work “in the way that people think… [as] people have got used to getting content without having to pay”.

Maybe this has something to do with the fact that he takes 90% of my earnings and I don't have enough reserves for luxuries like this! :-)

By mng70 on 13 Apr 2010

PM is right.

Brown's right in what he says. And eventually all mainstream papers will charge for their content. Unfortunately, it might not mean better content. Take PCPRO, the online news is free and the printed mag isn't. But it doesn't stop the editors going for the sensationalist style of journalism in their headlines on the site or in the printed version. This article and it's title being a good example. There's been a shift in PCPRO over the last few months towards a "Daily Mail" approach and I'm not really liking it. Indeed, some of the comments by other readers echo that view.

By CraigieDD on 13 Apr 2010

Inaccurate headlines and biased content

CraigieDD, I couldn't agree more...

Mr Hani Megerisi - few things for you to read:

http://www.useit.com/papers/webwriting

and

http://www.useit.com/alertbox/headlines-bbc.html

By Desmag on 13 Apr 2010

Would you pay for these?

Yes-we all want high quality, accurate content, rather like some of the comments on here about Gordon Brown ;-)

By jayardine1 on 13 Apr 2010

Irony bypass...

The reason GB expressed an opinion about paywalls is becase the Radio Times asked him what he thought of them - so he's not "sticking his nose in". The overwhelming irony is that the RT is an excellent case in point: it's a paid-for information portal that started from a not-really-free QUANGO (the BBC) which has quietly morphed into a crypto-monopoly masquerading as a national institution. No wonder GB likes it!

By Steve_Cassidy on 15 Apr 2010

Free?

I don't have to pay Murdoch because I don't want what he is offering.

I have to pay the BBC whether I want what they offer or not. I never asked them to start up BBC 3,4 or Radios 5,6,7. They never asked for my permission to spend money on those.

I watch mostly BBC but there's plenty of rubbish on it that I don't want to pay for and no one gives me any choice in the matter.

Some democracy please, Mr Brown, if you and your politburo know what that is. Or does it not fit in with your next 5-year tractor plan?

By fogtax on 15 Apr 2010

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