The Times is using social media to great advantage in a bid to win more subscribers and embolden its presence in the media comment sphere.
Readers of the Times Opinion pages will no doubt be interested to learn the website has launched an “experimental Tumblr page”.
Faced with this news, one might ask himself two things: 1. Just who are the online Times Opinion writers and their admiring readers, and 2. Could the paywall be stifling its columnists?
The answer to the second of these can be gleaned from the explanations provided on Tumblr page itself:
“What’s on this new page?
Additional commentary from Times columnists, news photos of the day, selected links, video – anything that we over at the Opinion desk find interesting.
Why set it up?
To give a flavour of what our columnists and leader writers do, how they think, and what influences their writing.
So is The Times giving away content?
No. No paid-for content appears on the Tumblr page. To read columns, leaders and Thunderers, look at cartoons, watch animations – and, indeed, access the rest of thetimes.co.uk – you still need a Times subscription.”
Given widespread reader reluctance to advance past the paywall, Times columnists are hidden from the public eye, so this could be interpreted as a clever use of PR to sign up new subscribers and boost the presence of the Times Opinion writers.
The Times’ decision to build a paywall in 2009 stirred a debate within the media about the future of paid content and whether readers were willing to pay. Nowadays, according to Nick Davies, only 12% of online journalism is original content – a figure well worth remembering if you’re of a giving nature.
But whereas Churnalism on newsdesks is typical of the struggle between an increasing volume of news stories and understaffed providers, newspaper commentary springs from an entirely different set of circumstances.
Though columnists take their cue from the stories of the week and share in the attitudes of fellow journalists and readers alike, a paper’s commentary is wholly unique and arguably actually worth paying for.
Perhaps this new move by The Times is a sign of the future model of paid-for online content.