Last week a sudden flurry of excitement on Twitter spelt one thing – the Times paywall had gone down. Journalists tweeted, the world scoffed and we all had a peep behind the iron online curtain. Whilst we wouldn’t want to comment on what we saw, it did reveal the aura that surrounds the now ‘less than free’ Times website. Even if visitors to the site have plummeted since Murdoch tried to make us put our hands in our pockets, The Times still has enough clout to get us talking.
When the Times decided to go behind the paywall many predicted it was the end of the beginning; how long, we asked, could other papers afford not to charge us for viewing their sites? Well, with recent news that The Telegraph is considering the paywall and others could follow suit, we asked Quora, which papers would be first to ‘cover up’ in 2011.
It was no surprise to hear that other users of Quora thought The Sun could follow suit this year. After all, as it’s part of News International, The Times trial could easily be implemented across other newspapers in the group.
The attention of the UK’s biggest newspapers might be on the paywall debate, but newspapers fail to recognise the challenge of micro-blogging at their peril. Social media platforms, including Twitter, have helped move journalism on so much in the past five years that arguments about whether or not to have a paywall could well be obsolete within a few years.
Social media has already eroded the supremacy of the traditional press, but it’s still hard to say whether bloggers or citizen journalism will overtake professional journalism as the de facto source of stories in years to come. For now, though, let’s just sit back, relax and enjoy the mud-slinging as the papers fight it out to gain the moral high-ground on the issue of paying for online news.