RUPERT MURDOCH'S GRAND PAYWALL that he hopes will save his vast media empire from the onslaught of Internet competition went down again today for a few hours.
News Corp customer service didn't seem to know anything about it and The INQUIRER's call to Murdoch's Times press office didn't elicit a response. Not that we're cynical or anything, but this downtime could be just as much a marketing exercise as maintenance. Twitter was alive with the tweets of those that found the newspaper website's paywall down.
This time the lack of a paywall led to stories being accessible while the September FAIL story links to a blank page that just has the word "OK" in the top left hand corner. This apparent total meltdown of the Australian media mogul's beloved walled garden's wall was said to be due to just "maintenance".
In November Murdoch revealed readership figures for his walled website and it was as bad as many thought. The number of readers who stayed on to pay for content had dropped way down to 105,000 since the paywall was put up in July. There were also another 100,000 readers signed up to joint subscriptions that get the Times and Sunday Times newspapers in both dead tree and online formats.
In October 2010 a Nielsen study drew ominous conclusions regarding the Times online subscription service. Before the paywall went up, the Times and Sunday Times had three million unique visitors per month. After it started on a free trial, that readership plunged to just 1.7 million. Then only 20 per cent of that 1.7 million signed up to go behind the paywall.
Despite this decline, Times editor James Harding said, "It's very early days but we're hugely encouraged by what we've seen." µ