News UK chief backs paywalls

Bec Fary / July 03, 2013 10:32 AM

Mike Darcey, chief executive of Rupert Murdoch’s UK publishing operations, has publicly backed digital paywalls. 

The head of News UK, recently rebranded from News International, said giving online content away free undermines the viability of a print business.  

Speaking at the CEO summit of London newspaper The Times’ Institute of Directors yesterday, Darcey said free news websites may get more readers than those behind a paywall, but focusing on building readers is “only good for the ego”.

“Some people have argued that the problem with a paywall strategy is that you lose reach, while others who maintain a free web presence continue to enjoy large numbers of unique users and page views,” he said.

“This reach doesn’t generate any meaningful revenue, and the pursuit of it undermines the piece of the business that does make money. If your purpose contemplates still being her in five to 10 years’ time, then the choice seems clear. It is better to sacrifice reach and preserve sustainable profitability.”

Darcey said the problem with free digital news is that readers “flit” between websites and are not as engaged as paying subscribers.

“When we sacrifice this so-called reach, what have we really lost? A long trail of passing trade, many from overseas, many popping in for only one article, referred by Google or a social media link, not even aware they are on a Times or a (News UK daily tabloid) Sun website, wholly anonymous. That passing trade was good for the ego, if unique user stats do that for you, but they don’t really add to our purpose at all.”

The comments came on the same day major Fairfax mastheads stepped behind a metered paywall. 


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