News Corporation's local offerings range from The Australian, a reasonably good broadsheet with a website that is near un-navigable, to Melbourne's Herald Sun, a sick parody of a tabloid overrun with tack, trash and typos.
Thomson wants to charge. But for what, and how?
Even at the Natural History Museum you generally have to buy a ticket to see the exhibits, and yet we are still having an angst-ridden argument over whether it is right to charge readers for all or some of our content online.The problem is not that people want free news - the Herald Sun still sells half a million papers a day despite its Z-grade content. The problem is that the papers need their figures to sell advertising; if it's not circulation, it must be web visit figures, and they will drop if papers charge for online content. Thomson knows that only too well. Despite his impatience with angst-ridden arguments, Thomson is agonising over the issue, as is every publisher in the world.
Sites which are now free must re-examine the worth of their assets - their journalists, the connections to people of profile, their archive, their role as platforms - and think creatively about what is a premium experience, so that there is a real distinction in the mind of the reader.Today's newspaper yields few 'premium experiences'. Every now and then I am glad I picked up a paper; often I throw it in the recycle bin threatening never to buy one again. An exception was a piece about John Cale in The Age last week; the story of a child, estranged by his social climber grandmother from his father because the latter was an English miner, who grew up to be a musician thanks to the encouragement of his mother. Now, there's a tale.