Friday, April 23, 2010

Is time running out for internet freeloaders?

Sitting down to devour a newspaper in peace and quiet (preferably while also devouring a drink and/or a tasty snack) is one of my favourite pastimes. But I don't do it as often as I used to. Partly it's due to having little kids who are apt to destroy both the peace and quiet and the newspapers, partly because newspapers are expensive in Spain (€5 for the Sunday Times) and partly due to a lack of time.
But I still get my newspaper fix online more or less daily. Consuming newspaper articles online is a very different experience from reading the inky version. I will immerse myself in the latter for as long as it takes to read from cover to cover; online news consumption is more a case of grazing - a quick glance at the sports stories at over a coffee break or a financial update from - but my carefree flitting around the news websites might be coming to an end.
The Times and others are planning charges (£1 a day in the Times' case) because they have to to make ends meet. I can't say I blame them as it always struck me as absurd that an online viewer has access to the entire contents of a publication, plus the archives, for free when the poor old readers of the print version have to shell out every day. I used to buy the Economist (at least €4) quite a lot before I got used to just reading what I wanted online and saving the cash. I still feel guilty about that but its not for me to decide what newspapers and mags give away free.
The big question is of course will anyone pay for what they have been used to getting for free. I almost certainly won't. It wouldn't make sense for me to spend £1 for access to the timesonline for a day because I only read at most 2 -3 articles. I suppose if every newssite did the same it might make a difference but I think the publishers will struggle to make charges stick. This could be a threat to their very survival as I argue in my latest column for

Enjoy those free articles and features while you can!

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