News International confirmed today that their papers in the UK will move to a subscription-based service in the coming months, starting with The Times and moving on to other titles such as The Sun.

I’m no supporter of Murdoch or NI at all, but I do have some sympathy for the model they are trying to establish. Why? Because the only other dominant model is that of advertising paying for everything. In other words, either I make a conscious choice to pay for quality content from providers I trust, or I rely on the poor/gullible to pay for it for me because they are tantalised into making purchases they neither need nor planned on wanting when they went online.

If you follow this blog or my Twitter you’ll know I’ve been reading Jaron Lanier’s book You Are Not A Gadget, and he is highly critical of the advertising model that is now so ubiquitous it’s uncertain whether The Times’ subscription model will even work:

There was a discernible ambient disgust with advertising in an earlier, more hippielike phase of Silicon Valley, before the outlandish rise of Google. Advertising was often maligned back then as the core sin of the bad old-media world we were overthrowing… Ironically, advertising is now singled out as the only form of expression meriting genuine commercial protection in the world to come. Any other form of expression is to be remashed, anonymised and decontextualised to the point of meaninglessness. Ads however, are to be made ever more contextual…

We’ve become so used to content being ‘free’ we hardly realise that some people are paying for it. And the harsh reality is that the quality content we want we are becoming less willing to pay for, which can only mean one thing: standards drop. I’ve not been around their manor for a while, but suddenly Adbusters seems more relevant than it did…


4 responses to “Paying For Content?”

  1. Oh, reserve your sympathy sir. The new Times will still be carrying advertising!

  2. Ha ha very true – don’t think for one moment that this is going to be the ideal model. I’d still be prepared to pay more for excellent content with no ads – á la BBC.

  3. inthewondertime

    hi kester, wouldn’t normally go public with this inquiry on your site, but not sure how else to reach you…

    just wondering if you might be free for breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, happy hour, supper, midnight snack (complimentary, of course!) anytime during the week of april 4-11? my husband and i are curious canadians keen for conversations re: the incarnation and such, and would love to pick up on some of the ideas you put down in belfast (ie: creation as a mirror for god to observe himself as humanity)… presently separated by the sea- leland working as a therapist in nova scotia while i teach psychology at an international school in surrey outside of london, but for the easter school holiday leland will be visiting the uk (only 7 sleeps away!:)and we’d love the chance to sit down with you somewhere in londontown (convenient for you) and chat for an hour or so…

    we’re also heading to pickwell manor april 12- 15, and when i very briefly spoke with your wife at re-emergence in belfast she hinted you might perhaps be around those parts in the next little while? (loved the super8 stop-frame walk, btw)…

    i realize asking a stranger out these days might be a bit aberrant (or rather, so common a gesture given our digital worlds its crude familiarity deems it somewhat freakish!:), but do hope to hear from you despite knowing we’re still yet formally ‘other’.

    ~alison (

  4. Just discovered this new response to advertising – of the digital variety. It’s possible to at least limit the specificity and track-ability of personal online marketing.