Since the Murdoch group of newspapers, including The Times and The Sunday Times, started charging for online news from June this year, their revenue expectations have fallen far short.
First it was consumer anger at “the cheek” of new £1 per week subscriptions, and then the reality of portability between business PC, home PC and private smart phones. “This has made the simple pleasure of surfing the news really complex. Only a Baby Boomer could have thought of this!” grumbled one typical blog entry.
In scenes reminiscent of the heights of illegal music downloading – young readers have found interesting ways to avoid paying, putting the finger up to big business.
Spurred on by this, young entrepreneurs started creating alternate ways of fuelling this demand for free news, and getting rich in the process.
Underground web site splrugle.com has created a registry of several thousand usernames and passwords, all of them legally paid for, that users can access online and use for short periods for free.
For Murdoch’s business the effect is dramatic: millions of users are using social networks to access free news, by sharing just a few thousand valid, and legal, usernames. The individuals simply submit to an element of targeted advertising.
Other sites have encouraged users to copy the subscription cookies and distribute them to all their friends. It’s all become a bit of a game and a personal honor to wear the “I Beat Murdoch” badge.
No one sees it as a crime – it’s become an intellectual challenge.
News International are said to have a team of fifteen geeks permanently engaged to try to stay ahead of the unbridled innovation of the young craving for free online news.
Murdoch’s forecasts have been thrown into serious trouble with revenues just 1%-2% of expectations. In the meantime it’s the young entrepreneurs who are making the money while big business searches for sustainable new business models.
Clearly this situation can’t last, but once again the older generations are having to learn from their kids.