The Guardian reports that Mike Darcey, the recently-appointed chief executive of News Corporation’s UK newspaper division News International, told press at an informal event today that offering The Sun’s content online for free was “untenable”. The report says that Darcey added that it was “a fairly safe bet” that a paywall would launch in the second half of this year.
The Sun would be following fellow Rupert Murdoch-controlled UK newspapers The Times and Sunday Times in charging for online content. Their paywall went up in July 2010.
So, why now? The move towards charging for The Sun online follows the signing of a deal that will allow it to offer Premier League football highlights and goals. That’s not the kind of premium content that you particularly want to give away for free if you can help it – and consumers in the UK are used to paying out good money (often to Murdoch via Sky Sports) to catch their favorite Premier League teams in action.
Football aside, will people want to pay for the rest of The Sun’s content when they can get similar populist content from the likes of Mail Online, the Daily Mail’s crazily successful (and free) online presence? There’s a proven track record in charging for ‘quality’ or niche news content in the UK (see The Times and Financial Times, for example), but popular tabloid fare? Why would you pay for it? Just for the Premier League goals? They’ll be worth the money to some, but is the rest of the content then just filler until the next football match?
No exact plans for the paywall have been announced yet, so we’ll just have to wait and see whether The Sun will offer enough to keep readers coming back, and paying for the privilege.
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