Google Earth, The Loch Ness Monster and why paywalls won’t work

Google Earth, The Loch Ness Monster and why paywalls won’t work

Loch Ness Monster on Google EarthGoogle Earth is a fantastic tool for discovering previously unseen parts of the world. Secret military bases and even the Lost City of Atlantis (yeah right) have been discovered in the past and now it’s been claimed that Google Earth even features an appearance by fabled beast the Loch Ness Monster.

There have been sightings of this supposed ‘underwater dragon’ in the Scottish lake since 1933 and now he’s entered the digital realm, according to The Sun.

Of course, a few splashes in the water could be anything. The large white patch on the right is presumably a splash from the monster’s head with the smaller markings to the left could be part of its body snaking through the water. It’s all rubbish of course – the splashes are far more likely the result of a small boat than anything exciting.

Still, stories like this are a good example of why Rupert Murdoch’s plans for paywalls around his online news content won’t work.

Here we are, driving traffic to The Sun’s website by discussing its content. When The Sun paywall goes up sometime in the next few months, chances are we won’t bother linking to the original story at all because blockages like that annoy readers.

Paywalls disrupt the free flow of information around the web. If Murdoch keeps all his stories just for subscribers he will still probably make a profit but there will always be somewhere else to go for free news. Charge for premium content, sure – but everything? It’s a dangerous game and Murdoch’s cruising for a severe web bruising.

Give us exclusive, compelling video content at 50 pence per view! Give us full -length, in-depth interviews for a small fee – chances are we’ll pay, but give us the news for free. Charge for just about everything and Murdoch will find himself losing out to those who are in a position to offer it at no cost.

Going in the other direction, The Guardian has an API that allows developers to include its news content in apps across the web. It offers full-content RSS feeds too – the only UK paper to do so. Like most news organisations The Guardian has its financial problems, but it knows which way the online wind’s blowing and that will stand it in good stead in the years to come.

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