The Paywall: Will Good Writing Save Murdoch?

I have three British friends who write literate and stylish columns that will soon go behind Rupert Murdoch's paywall at the Times and Sunday Times of London. For a little while longer, you can see the newly designed Times site and read Rod Liddle, AA Gill, and Dominic Lawson for free (the site now requires registration--which means you'll be spammed about subscribing to the Times forevermore), but soon this will end.

Tim Kevan, the author of the Times' enormously popular legal blog--BabyBarista--recently announced he was leaving his Murdoch home (where he's gotten two book deals from his blog) and setting up his own site because he doesn't want to be in the "exclusive preserve of a limited few subscribers." In other words, he wants an audience.

But my friends Liddle, Gill, and Lawson, all presumably being paid a premium by Murdoch (at least, I hope they are), have agreed to keep their prose behind his paywall to tempt and seduce potential online Times subscribers into eagerly paying the new fee.

Like me, Liddle, Gill, and Lawson write a sort of autodidact's column, a job that pays well without ever having to prove its value. (I've said this before: Liddle could be the one columnist writing in English who, I might admit, does this job better than me.) Actually, our very value is probably that people have never thought about having to pay for us--that, appearing reliably in this or that periodical, we seem free. We come along with the package. An uninvited guest--sometimes drunk, sometimes amusing (or both). An interjection. Often quite a gratuitous seeming one.

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