VIRGINIA McMILLAN: With non-subscribers prevented from reading The Times on the web, changes are being forced on the content, argues Clay Shirky, author and teacher.
Links to Times stories are rarely forwarded by colleagues or friends or linked to from Facebook or Twitter, says Shirky, adjunct professor in New York University’s graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program.
On his self-titled blog, he argues the paywall has created “newsletter economics”, and offers some analysis of the readership data. Shirky sees the Times becoming “the online newsletter of the Tories, the UK’s conservative political party, read much less widely than its paper counterpart”.
If you are going to produce news that can’t be shared outside a particular community, you will want to recruit and retain a community that doesn’t care whether any given piece of news spreads, which means tightly interconnected readerships become the ideal ones. However, tight interconnectedness correlates inversely with audience size, making for a stark choice, rather than offering a way of preserving the status quo.