If you follow the media’s coverage of the media itself, you’ll be aware of plans for some daily newspapers – currently available to read pretty much in their entirety free of charge online – to put their content behind ‘paywalls’. There are complex business reasons at play: newspapers are struggling financially as more of us get our news from the web. Google and other search engines make it easy to browse not just the country’s but the world’s newspapers in an instant. Indeed, people use Google – making Google profitable – to access newspapers online, who make nothing from the transaction. Old business models are being outstripped not just by technology, but by the way we use it.
But listening to James Hewitt, editor of The Times, being interviewed on The Today Programme recently, he raised a point that is hugely relevant to all websites – whether or not they charge for access beyond their first page. That first page – usually your Home Page – is not just a gateway: it’s also a lure to tempt people to explore further, and an advertisement for what they will find inside. Hewitt drew the comparison of a newsstand: customers see only the front page – and usually just the top half of it. That view must tempt them to buy the paper, confident about its content.