Last night’s Webby Debates at Covent Garden, London’s Hospital Club was an editorial discussion about paywalls with heavyweight UK national newspapers all contributing to the discussion. To paywall or not to paywall – that was the question. But it quickly became clear that these heavyweights believe that Apple is essential to the future of their newspapers.
Moderated by Milo Yiannopoulous, a technology journalist at The Telegraph, TheGuardian.co.uk‘s online editor Janine Gibson went toe-to-toe with the managing editor of the FT.com Robert Shrimsley about paywalls. “We can’t afford to ignore paywalls” was the name of the debate.
The Financial Times believes in a paywall and The Guardian online doesn’t. Fair enough – but these publications aren’t, essentially, direct competitors. They target a different audience and have different reach. What works for one may not for the other. We get it.
But what they do have in common, along with The Telegraph, is an iPad application.
This week’s Private Eye highlighted the recent shouting by Guardian journalists about The Times‘ released paywall figures. It then moved over its iPad application to a subscription based model, much like… The Times and indeed the first question was about that.
“We’ve thought about different models and this is the best one”, said Gibson.
But all of this begs another question. With talk amid online publications about an Apple news bias – does UK news run the risk of having its agenda changed?
In late May this year, almost every UK national trumpeted the iPad’s arrival and in some cases pushed it right to the front of the paper. A case in point was The Times, Saturday 29th May edition, which had its Raoul Moat (remember him?) lead to advertise its app on page three, then again with a double-page splash about the device on page 18.
With the media industry obsessing about iPads and apps, came the one question not from the front row, isn’t it worrying that Apple is increasingly becoming a distributor?
The Financial Times said: “Apple’s power as a distributor is something we will have to get used to.”
Meanwhile it was confirmed to us by an ex technology correspondent for a well known news wire that Steve Jobs provides information to old friends at the New York Times – Apple devotees in fact, who have been covering the company from the earliest days.
There is an agenda here. We’re not sure that Apple should be dictating the news nor that hacks should find the Walled Garden as compelling as they all appear to.
Apple is notoriously picky about who it chats to. See John C. Dvorak’s article at PCMag.com here.