So today The Times was finally put behind a paywall after a few weeks that allowed users free registration.
The whole point of the Internet is the interconnectedness of all sites, so the sites that limit access will find it hard to attract traffic to themselves.
I know for a fact that I don’t tend to write blog postings that link to sites that are not universally accessible, so even if I were given free access to The Times’ website, I wouldn’t blog the content I found there without summarising it to such an extent that the blog posting would make it irrelevant to read the original article.
My gut feeling is most bloggers think the same way, so The Times (and soon the other NewsCorp sites) can wave goodbye to a lot of incoming traffic, which again means they’ll find it hard to attract new readers.
It’s the same problem that reviewers are now finding with the iPad’s magazine applications:
Despite the initial novelty of “swiping” to turn a page – not to mention interactive photo galleries, beautifully designed charts, audio snippets and videos – the app possesses the disadvantages of print without acknowledging the opportunities of the digital medium. Ads, for instance – lots of them. Unlike the easily ignored banner ads on Wired’s website, in the iPad app you find yourself assaulted by full-page brand advertising for the likes of Heineken, Samsung and Continental Airlines.
Wired wants you to read the app like a magazine, too: one page at a time. Little is done to improve navigation beyond the ability to view a list of all the articles in the issue.
And more than 11 years after Google made every webpage accessible from the search bar, the Wired app inexplicably lacks a search function. The publishers of iPad apps seem largely disinterested in linking to webpages. Perhaps this is a relic of their print editions.
There’s a bigger problem with the lack of links: If I decide I particularly like an article within an iPad app, there’s no way to link to it. Even if I could, you would need to buy the app to see what I’m talking about.
It looks like many publishers are trying to move back to before the Internet. This is understandable – it’s the world they know and understand.
I just hope most people will realise that paying money for these reactionary initiatives – whether Internet paywalls or iPad magazines – will make the Internet worse, not better.