Behind The Sun paywall…

Today I was hoping to be able to bring you a look at THE SUN newspaper as it goes behind a paywall. images
Alas, I have now spent over an hour uploading my card and details, thinking up a complicated password, inputting a voucher code (an offer as I registered before the 1st August) and still no joy. I find myself stuck in a round-robin of ‘your account is being set up’ and ‘please login’ – but no Sun online for me today on my computer or my phone app.

I am sure The Sun will sort out these teething problems – I don’t think it’s only me having difficulties as I see their Twitter feed is busy replying to others with the same issues. But it does bring something home to me – and this is how most UK publications, while being writers and apparently media savvy, have actually taken a long time to get their internet act together. It’s almost as if they’ve desperately clung on to their print versions, trying to ignore the fact I’m afraid, that the online revolution has been moving swiftly on without them.

Hence The Sun seems to have forgotten one of the most important aspects of the online world. When people sign up to something, they want it now. They expect an immediate email confirming everything, they expect immediate access. Quite frankly they don’t want to wait for an email, they don’t have time to search for info. When we click on a website, we expect to be presented with the information we were searching for. If not, then we click off and try elsewhere.

The Sun has been doing a ‘count down’ for weeks to today when it launches its new site behind the paywall. I cannot understand why people like myself who signed up ages ago did not get a welcome email at midnight with the voucher code that you immediately inputted giving you access for a few hours or a day. Why make us wait to access the paper online? Why start their online codes in the paper on Sunday – why not today on launch day? Sunday is a long way away – enough time for any reader to try another news website instead.

Let me clarify something. One national newspaper has moved and in fact led change. All credit to Associated Newspapers – whatever you think of their views, MailOnline is extraordinarily well done. Interestingly MailOnline, now read by millions around the world, did realise the future lay online and got its act together much earlier – today, for example, the online version of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday has its own editorial team. This means it realises that people who read the paper online might not be the same readers who actually buy the paper every day – and so content is tailored with that in mind.

Whether The Sun realises this, I don’t know as I can’t access the paper right now. But while I understand why online versions of our papers need to charge and don’t have any problem with it – it does cost money to bring people stories and advertising on these sites doesn’t appear to have brought in enough bunce for anyone to be making huge profits yet – to get people to sign up you need to make it easy and make it worth their while.

Unfortunately so far The Sun with its having a complicated password to boot, hasn’t made it easy to sign up. I have to be honest – if I did not write for the paper I might have given up by now. Also, whether they realise that all those readers who go on the online version aren’t men who like football (this is far too heavily featured on online snippets in my view) I am not sure.

While I wouldn’t imagine going behind a paywall would affect print sales as The Sun has a loyal band of readers in the routine of buying a daily paper, the issue is how many of those readers like the idea of popping online to read it too.

Perhaps I’m unusual but I prefer to read all of my papers (and books) online – usually via an app on my phone – and I’m afraid I think this is how it will be in future. I can’t imagine anyone in the years to come actually buying a paper (which must be recycled or disposed of, which gets print on your table and which is really full of yesterday’s news…) At some point in the future we will end up with the battle of the online papers (for advertising and paywall) so it is vitally important that those online habits are made now. Like it or not, The Sun is an institution in the media world. Let’s hope this fiddling to get online doesn’t put people off at the outset.

Alison Smith-Squire

Alison Smith-Squire is a writer, journalist and media agent selling exclusive real life stories to newspapers, magazines and TV. She owns the sell my story website Featureworld.co.uk, which was set up to help ordinary people sell their stories to the press.

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