News International archive site reignites debate about the UK Sun’s paywall plans

News International archive site reignites debate about the UK Sun’s paywall plans

The ‘will he, won’t he’ debate regarding Ruper Murdoch’s intentions to take his UK Sun newspaper title behind a paywall has been reignited, after it was revealed a new archive website has been set up which charges for access to previously published articles, though the site has seemingly been pulled in the past hour or so.

Moreover, the website offered archived content from the now defunct News of the World newspaper, which Rupert Murdoch killed last year in light of the ongoing phone hacking allegations.

The site said:

“The Sun and The News of the World archive is an invaluable resource giving subscribers the ability to retrieve articles for as little as 40p each. If you need an accurate record of an event or story at your fingertips, we can deliver just that. Our service provides an entire library of articles dating back to 1996 from the newspaper editions of The Sun and The News of the World, giving you the opportunity to obtain primary sources of information from two of the world’s leading newspapers. For ease and efficiency, the database is presented to you in a text only format. Please try our free sample search.”

Gordon MacMillan over at The Wall Blog pointed to the website yesterday and it was still active as of this afternoon, though the website is no longer loading.

Was this perhaps a test site it launched that it didn’t mean to fall into the public domain? And did it think better of it after Roy Greenslade from the Guardian got a whiff of it earlier on today? Greenslade suggested that it might not be the best for PR to charge for News of the World content, before admitting that it could actually be a helpful tool for researchers.

MacMillan also noted that if the site was legitimate, it could be a sign that News International was gearing up to launch some sort of chargeable content model in the near future for the Sun newspaper, similar to what it had done for its flagship Sunday tabloid newspaper the News of the World which adopted a paid model in October 2010. However, as we reported last May, News International has hinted that it had shelved plans to introduce a paywall for the Sun, and this was reiterated in our October report too.

As we’ve previously argued, if the Sun was to go behind a paywall, it would lose a lot of revenue from advertising, simply because not many people would pay for the privilege of reading the Sun online. However, it’s not clear yet exactly what the intentions were behind the (brief) introduction of this site, and there’s nothing that directly suggests that the Sun is planning to start charging for content online.

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