Wednesday, 22nd September 2010
In the UK, the free versus paywall battle between The Guardian and The Times newspapers has also been taking place on the business information front.
In May this year, The Guardian newspaper launched its Guardian Law pages (http://www.guardian.co.uk/law) online, essentially a collection of existing law content from other parts of the Guardian site. It contains what one would expect from a niche online site: news, analysis and commentary using multimedia tools.
Guardian Law has, so far, been well received – according to the Guardian, the pages attract more than 300,000 users per month. The site’s popularity is helped by the fact that content is free. This is in stark contrast, of course to The Times content, which went behind a paywall in June. (see http://www.vivavip.com/go/e29756 and http://www.vivavip.com/go/e27062 for Livewire comments on the subject).
One of the first Times contributors to leave the paper in protest at its introduction of a paywall was its legal blogger, posting as BabyBarista. The blog’s author, Tim Kevan, at the time accused News International of “Canute-like behaviour” and “unable to cope with the diversification of the web brought about by social media” (http://digbig.com/5bckes). It wasn’t much of a surprise then, when BabyBarista turned up on the then newly launched Guardian law page.
In an attempt to boost content and increase its competitive edge over the Times’ law content, The Guardian entered into a partnership with LexisNexis in recent days. According to the press release (http://digbig.com/5bcket), LexisNexis will be providing specialist content, “enabling readers to gain access to law reports, comprehensive legal content, legal updates and analysis on legal topics” amongst other items.
Amazingly, users will continue to have free access to all this content, although as an article in the Press Gazette says (http://digbig.com/5bckew) there are “no plans” to charge for this. “No plans” for how long? This is exactly the kind of niche information that paywall observers and advocates have said online users will pay for, as proven by the FT and Wall Street Journal with their specialist business content.
One also wonders what LexisNexis will get out of this deal. Surely, providing Guardian readers with premium content could be a good revenue stream. Is The Guardian’s staunch aversion to a paywall about to crack?
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