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‘This could be very interesting’
With 36 million users, Guardian.co.uk is one of the giants of the Internet. Mark Finney, the Guardian’s head of client sales, tells us what Murdoch’s paywalls could mean for it.
May 31, 2010 3:40 by Austyn Allison
Did Guardian.co.uk ever charge for content?
It had registration. And you could pay for an ad-free version. It was a long time ago that we binned it. It was about £25 to £30 per year. We got something in the order of 2,000 or 3,000 people who did it. Only 2,000 or 3,000 people a year were prepared to pay £25 or £30 for an ad-free version of the Guardian, proving how little resistance to advertising there is.
How big do you have to be to make money online?
You need to be big enough to have a credible conversation about scale with advertisers. I don’t know how big that is, but I guess in the UK that means magnitudes in the order of millions.
Can paywalls work?
They are going in the opposite way to the natural traffic, the natural flow of digital, which is all about mutualization, about increasing scale, about building communities.
We don’t think the paying-for-content mechanics work for us. That’s not to say it won’t work for Murdoch. He’s got a bigger spread of different properties (he’s got Sky, Fox, Penguin Books). I don’t know how they are planning to charge for content, but I am sure it will involve some very clever packaging by the very clever guys who work at News International. And if he does turn it round, if he makes it work, then we reserve the right to change our mind.
What will News International’s paywalls mean for you?
It’s going to be an interesting time for us because it’s obviously no secret that if Murdoch starts charging for his sites in the UK, then what happens to our traffic? It goes up. We can monetize that. And gain influence. And reach out to different people. And build our communities. So it could be a very interesting time for us.