Jeremy Clarkson writes a column for The Sunday Times, in fact he writes two as he writes a motoring column and an opinion column, although the only real difference is a bit of a car info at the end of the motoring one.
You can read both these columns and a fairly substantial archive on the Times website – published first thing in the morning on a Sunday, every Sunday – often before most people will have seen the paper.
He also writes a column for The Sun, another News International product, this column goes out every Saturday and there was a pretty substantial archive for that one as well.
The big difference between the two, other than the style of writing Clarkson employs for the different target audience, is the fact that eventually the Sunday Times columns will end up in a book.
Well, that was the big different until the end of June when The Sun decided there was value in NOT putting Clarkson, and a number of other celebrity columnists, on their website.
Instead there was a banner on the front page on a Saturday telling people to buy The Sun to read his column which is a pretty interesting development.
What with News International owner, Rupert Murdoch, announcing an end to ‘free content’ on the web, the removal of the Clarkson columns from The Sun website raises a few interesting ideas about how Newspapers can monetise online.
You see I don’t think any paper will be able to make any money out of ‘general news’, what with the BBC, Google, Yahoo, AP, Channel 4, Sky and ITN – it’s just not going to happen. Also it only takes on to give it open and ad-supported (say hello Guardian) and the whole thing falls apart anyway.
No, I think papers will probably keep their news content free and open but instead charge for the premium stuff and this will work even better if can take out a subscription to multiple papers in one go – or even multiple services.
For example, News Corp/News International is in a prime position to put their premium stuff behind a pay wall – the celebrity columnists, The Sunday Times, the News of the World, games, The Literary Supplement, The Rich List, The Educational Supplement…
If you said ‘look here is a lot of free news content you don’t have to pay for but if you pay a £5/month premium subscription you will get a digital edition of the paper and access to all this extra content – put video behind the pay wall as well and maybe even the ability to comment.
In fact the comment thing alone may be enough to get people paying – if I come across a story with a load of comments that REALLY irritate me I NEED to respond – put the ability to respond behind the pay-wall and you’ve got a new customer.
Ideally I’d pay a fixed amount per month for access to premium content across all the newspapers – say an extra £10 a month for across the board access and even more ideally this would be an ‘added extra’ on my broadband account.
If I could pay my ISP an extra £10 for full access to every national newspaper (assuming they go behind a pay-wall) I would rather do that and let them pay it on to the papers, than pay the papers directly.
I think it is inevitable that some of the content we’ve taken for granted as being free will go behind a pay-wall eventually, I’m not sure it is the best model, but if they all do it I think people will get used to it as a new ‘norm’ eventually.