A quick follow-up thought to my post earlier today on the forthcoming paywall being erected at The Times — how will the next generation of readers discover the newspaper’s content and quality? Articles aren’t even able to found on Google. Nobody will be tweeting links to Times articles. It will exist in its own bubble, like academic journals. Except, as we discussed, its content is mass market and not niche. It won’t survive on university subscriptions.
When I was growing up, my mum religiously purchased The Times. I would always immediately turn first to the backpages for the latest football, cricket or tennis news, devouring pretty much every word, appreciating the prose of a Simon Barnes or Brian Glanville. As I got older, I developed more interest in the rest of the newspaper, but even today on my rare visits home to England, I still turn first to the backpages.
Except my mum doesn’t get The Times every day any more, because she reads her news on the internet. Like nearly everyone in my generation does. So for someone in the generation growing up now, how will they stumble on The Times when it’s not a daily presence in physical form at their parents house or their grandparents house or their friends house?
We now share and pass down via the internet: emailing, tweeting and facebooking articles. From Google searches. From links. It’s our broad network that’s replaced the tighter circle of reading our parents’ newspapers. The Times is exiting from that conversation and I have a really hard time seeing where they’re cultural relevance is going to come from as time passes and very few people read or share the newspaper on or offline.