“Heart of the Nation” paywalled!

The paywall at The Australian, long foreshadowed, has gone up.

I gather it’s actually still free, but you have to register, but I only know this from reading Crikey and Mumbrella. The redesigned News site doesn’t immediately tell me, unless readers are supposed to intuit the point of the “login” and “sign up” buttons at the bottom of the page.

Similarly, when you go to a story, there’s a couple of paragraphs as a teaser, then a tagline telling you how many comments there are in an enormous font, but nothing immediately apparent to let you know that you need to subscribe to keep reading. You need to scroll down past a heap of white space cluttered up on the right with job ads to spy a sign up link in the lower right hand corner.

Perhaps people will be tantalised by a teaser like this:

AS the clock winds down on Julia Gillard’s prime ministership, Labor insiders are already reasoning why: poor political judgment and an absence of policy principle.

Privately, Gillard’s supporters and detractors are scathing in their assessment of her performance. However, Labor’s former national secretary and campaign director is not afraid to have his comments attributed.

I also can’t find an easy way to get back to the front page.

Strangely, too, there are still buttons for recommendations to be made on Facebook and for retweeting, but it’s hard to see this as anything but a restriction on the degree to which this sort of ‘content’ will actually contribute to or stimulate conversations.

If you can be bothered registering and finding your way around a horribly user-unfriendly site, though, you can read all about how this represents the “future of journalism” here.

Update: According to Jason Whittaker in today’s Crikey, there is a big “subscribe to continue reading” thingie at the bottom of the teaser text. I didn’t see it. Perhaps we all have to wait til our caches refresh to experience this “new age of journalism”.

Update: I think I’ve worked out why I can’t see the ‘sign up’ graphic. I think AdBlock Plus for Chrome is interpreting it as an ad and blocking it.


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58 responses to ““Heart of the Nation” paywalled!”

  1. Terry

    Will this mean that bloggers will increasingly have to argue with each other?

  2. Terry

    Possibly not, but “The Heart of the Nation” has often provided the leads as to what to argue about, as well as who with. I’d hate for people to have to listen in to the Alan Jones or Ray Hadley shows for their cues.

  3. wilful

    Hooray! best thing Rupe has ever done!

  4. jusme

    interesting. i actually don’t have a problem with private companies charging for ‘use’ of their sites. i played W.o.W for ages and it costs about what ‘news’ wants to charge. but yeah, you’d have to be a zealot to pay for propaganda.
    if tim dunlop is correct on the drum recently and papers like ‘the australian’ are about to be ‘shaken up’, maaaaybe, with some anecdotal evidence that it has improved, i may try it…
    the comment’s link in large font could be human error? or they’ve cottoned on that people glaze over halfway thru’ lengthy conservative tirades and go straight to the much more interesting comments?

    oh and here’s a tip (i’m sure all know) to get back to any front page when it looks like it’s more than 3 seconds away : favourites->page. (same way as u got there in the 1st place assuming u have it saved)

  5. paul walter

    So, they’ve finally quarantined it, have they?

  6. Aidan

    Hooray. The tighter they close the doors the better. Good riddance.

  7. Alexander

    I don’t see the signup graphic either. I don’t have “AdBlock Plus for Chrome”—I’m running Epiphany, which uses the same engine (WebKit, like Apple’s Safari) and might have a built-in AdBlock-style ad blocker, but I’m not aware of it. (Or I may even have enabled it when I first started using this browser, but I don’t know how.)

  8. jusme

    gah my 7 should read: w.o.w costs DOUBLE what news intends…

  9. Sam Bauers

    Your browser does think it’s an ad, because it is an ad, served by DoubleClick. It uses Javascript to place the ad in the page too, so double whammy if you run a script blocker.

  10. John D

    Had a quick look at what was in the opinion section. Most of it looked as though it should have had an “Authorized by ….. for the Liberal Party” on it. So why pay for Liberal party adds?
    The ABC drum does a much better job.

  11. Fran Barlow

    Great news. Free speech now comes at a price …

    Seriously though, this is a fabulous development. Let’s hope News charges what they think it’s worth rather than what rational people think it’s worth.

  12. CMMC

    Was wondering why The Australian was only offering only the most rudimentary portal this morning.

    Well, subscribe or not, I block DoubleClick so Murdochistan is now a closed door to me.

    I trust ABC reporters will now stop quoting from this rag, lest they be seen to be endorsing a commercial product.

  13. Chris

    jusme @ 7 – even if it wasn’t mostly propoganda – why pay for access when nearly everyone else is giving it away for free? And when other people will be willing to relay the important bits for free (eg via twitter and other social media).

    Their business model is rather dead before they’ve started. On the upside it will drive people to free sites so hopefully the smh/age’s ad revenue will go up.

  14. alfred venison

    dear editor
    well, i don’t go there anyway, for years, ’cause i haven’t wanted to give him “free clicks” & now he’s sure as heck not going to get “free demographics” or my cash. but regarding this latest development, I say simply, good riddance to “bad news”.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  15. jusme

    very very true chris, i meant it’s not unreasonable to ask a price for work done, even poor work heh. might go stir ‘em up.

  16. Savvy

    @6 Kim

    “Seriously, though, if we were to have a conversation that isn’t framed by what News Limited wanted us to be talking about, then that would be a good thing.”

    You are incapable of this without a paywall at the Australian?

    Start to think for yourself !

  17. Alex

    I’d rather poke myself in the eye than to read any Murdoch publication, so this doesn’t really affect me.

  18. Fine

    I’ll just continue to browse the hard copy at my local, as I do.

  19. Sam

    I used to read the Times, one of the least bad Murdoch publications, until it was paywalled. I thought I’d miss it, but haven’t at all. I don’t know why I have read the Australian – maybe I am a masochist of sorts – but now they have put a barrier in the way, even the teensy barrier of registration, I won’t be reading it any more.

  20. Sam

    BTW, if anyone wants to get around the paywall, here is how it is done. Copy the headline, paste into your Google search space, hit enter, click on the headline (usually the first thing that comes up on the search returns), start reading.

  21. Katz

    Sam’s method works.

    Interestingly it invokes the same URL as the paywalled version. E.g.:

    Google search result:

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs-old/people-in-politics/support-for-pms-partners-slumps-in-newspoll-as-windsor-and-oakeshott-defy-voters/story-fn59nosx-1226174982547

    Paywall URL

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs-old/people-in-politics/support-for-pms-partners-slumps-in-newspoll-as-windsor-and-oakeshott-defy-voters/story-fn59nosx-1226174982547

    But if you click the URL for the Google version from here, you’ll get the paywall version. So you must click in from Google.

    Teh webz is endlessly mysterious to me!

  22. alfred venison

    dear friends
    they seem to have reached an agreement with google. the new york times reached an agreement with google, too. the paywall can be got around by “slipping in” via a google result. they didn’t want to stop that convenience/faciity altogether, its good for them & good for google, but they have knobbled it. the “google shift” will only work a limited number of times per day. if its like the nyt.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  23. Aidan

    Katz, when I look at the Google link (in google) I get this:

    <a href=”/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=support%2Bfor%2Bpms%2Bpartners%2Bslump&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CCYQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.theaustralian.com.au%2Fnational-affairs%2Fsupport-for-pms-partners-slumps-in-newspoll-as-windsor-and-oakeshott-defy-voters%2Fstory-fn59niix-1226174598855&ei=2PqkTsfHM-O1iQfqkvjGBg&usg=AFQjCNFLiyepuHo09tdld01oSp9bkTRHlQ” class=”l” onmousedown=”return rwt(this,”,”,”,’2′,’AFQjCNFLiyepuHo09tdld01oSp9bkTRHlQ’,”,’0CCYQFjAB’)”>

    So google isn’t being straight with you when you mouseover that link.

    If someone could be arsed you might be able to make a javascript plugin to add that gumpf around any Australia article you wanted to read. I am not of a mind as I really don’t want their propaganda promulgated.

  24. Sam

    Aidan, trust me, it works. If you want do it an unlimited number of times per day (as per Alf), clear your cache and cookies.

  25. Aidan

    Sam

    I’m not saying it doesn’t work. I was just pointing out that it works BECAUSE of all the gumpf in that URL that is hidden. It should be possible to add in that gumpf without actually having to do the google search — though they most probably use some sort of session id thing to stop that.

  26. Alex White

    Will LP bloggers now write more posts to compensate? That would be good!

  27. Sam

    Re 30:, LP bloggers will have to find other sources of irritation.

  28. Alex White

    I’m sure they’ll manage. :-)

  29. akn

    Good. Paywalls operate in the same way that gated communities do: they keep undesirables IN.

  30. Sam

    I just don’t know how this blog will manage without being able to link, outraged, to the latest missive by the Shanahans or the rest of the gang over there. It just doesn’t bear thinking about.

  31. Terry

    But Sam, the good news is that Brendan O’Neill’s columns can still be accessed for free on “Spiked”. So there is someone to fulminate against at no cost.

  32. Mercurius

    The only real problem I have with Brendan O’Neill is that he gives vacuous, fatuous cauliflower-headed agitprop a bad name.

  33. Fran Barlow

    Mercurius said:

    The only real problem I have with Brendan O’Neill is that he gives vacuous, fatuous cauliflower-headed agitprop a bad name.

    That, and the fact that there’s no hint of humanity behind those phrases he utters. He comes off as sociopathic in a Bolt-like way.

  34. Robert Merkel

    Correct me if I’m horribly deluded here, but it was my understanding that the Oz has essentially never made money – it exists purely as a personal indulgence of Rupert as a vehicle for political influence.

    As such, why would you want your propaganda operation hidden behind a paywall?

    Or is the Oz brains trust so deluded that they think we’ll pay for the crap that they serve up?

  35. Katz

    My guess is that before long the dead tree version of the Oz will disappear.

    The Oz masthead will live on as a right wing version of Crikey. If you can call that “living”.

  36. Joe

    Well I guess it’s time to just sit back and watch privatisation generate a profit.

    I wonder how this is going to effect circulation and advertising rates?

    Mind you, if all that’s really happening is that they are collection user information via login details, maybe You should be a bit concerned about what News has in mind with Your personal data…

  37. Sam

    Robert, you are correct. And even the official circulation figures are inflated by the give-aways. The strategy will probably be to create an iPad version that people will pay for. But why should they, when everything that you can get in the online Oz you can get for free from other online news providers (the ABC, the BBC, CNN etc)?

  38. Brian

    Robert M, I think Rupert thinks he is making a contribution to quality journalism and our identity as a nation.

    I understand the registration will only get you in free for three months.

  39. Jacques de Molay

    I assume Ltd News are using The OO paywall as a test case to see what it does to the paper’s online readership before deciding to expand it to the local papers or scrap it all together.

    I suspect the paywall will be gone in a few months.

  40. AS

    I don’t have a problem with companies asking people to pay. I guess the test is whether enough people think that they are getting value for money from the subscription.

    The real problem for Rupert is that his model is basically asking people to pay for the identical content and format as the dead-tree version.

    I like the Guardian approach. Through their podcasts, videos and even love events, they have steadily been driving a deeper ‘engagement’ with their ‘readers’. If they can successfully deliver that through their iPad app, instead of being spread between the web, iPod etc, then they might be on to something that would be worth paying for. Not that I’m convinced as yet …

  41. Guy

    I rarely pop into the Oz online these days and now I have very, very little reason to at all.

  42. Robert Merkel

    And yes, Brian, it has done some very good work in the past. It’s the only mainstream print media that devotes specialist coverage to defence issues, and there was a time where its IT section was excellent.

    However, there has been less and less of the good stuff, and more and more really bad opinion.

  43. John J

    I used to read the SMH, Oz, and local Murdoch tabloid over breakfast. This morning I just the read the SMH and tabloid. I can live with this. The idea of paying $150 a year to read the opinions of Shanahan, Kelly, Savva, etc, seems like a bad deal. And, in the unlikely event of them having anything interesting to say, they can always be accessed via Google. So Rupe, old buddy, you ain’t getting a cent of mine.

  44. Terry

    i wouldn;t be assuming that The Age and SMH will remain free. Fairfax has basically been waiting for News to make the first move.

  45. tssk

    Terry is probaby correct. I remember Rupert talking about how great it would be if all newspapers followed his lead at the same time.
    Mind you the SMH has almost become a television news service now which might put the mind up Murdoch a bit.

  46. Chris

    Terry – the abc will remain free though. Too bad their news website design is not as good as the others.

  47. John J

    I would pay for the SMH online. It isn’t a great newspaper but at least it has some diversity of opinion. And it is not controlled by the Dirty Digger.

  48. Sam

    Fairfax have succeeded in getting hundreds of thousands of people to read the Age and SMH on iPad* apps. The product is very good and it’s free, but only for now. Once people are hooked, they will start charging. It’s the drug dealers strategy and it might well work. The News strategy is the same. Rupert has said that the iPad is a game changer and he might well be right. Charging for online newspaper content is not meant to mean, any longer, charging for looking at a web site.

    * where iPad means tablet. I hold no brief for Apple.

  49. Chris

    Sam – the SMH iPad app is really quite good. I find it much better than reading the same content via web browser. Upfront loading of all the content is a bid advantage. I wouldn’t subscribe as I just don’t have the time to read it every day, but I would be willing to pay the same price as a dead tree copy on a demand basis.

    If all you want is the dead tree version but electronically then pressreader is a good alternative. The advantage with that is you can get monthly subscriptions and choose pretty much any paper around the world to read that day. But its just a digitisation of the dead tree versions.

  50. Roger Jones

    I’m already being spammed by The Australian [[email protected]]. It says “Welcome Sandy, here’s how to take full advantage of your digital pass.” But I haven’t signed up, nor does planet Rupe have my email. Has it been hacked already?

  51. Mercurius

    I like the Guardian approach. Through their podcasts, videos and even love events,

    Wait, there’s pr0n at The Guardian now!?

    Freudian typo!

  52. sg

    Mercurius, if you read the post-world cup threads on the Guardian they certainly don’t come across as a “love event”!

  53. akn

    I don’t even need to read the SMH. I know where to buy good coffee already.