For cell phones, online walled gardens are tough to maintain. That was the theme of a Wall Street Journal article last week entitled, Breaking Down the Walls Of Phones? Web Gardens. The same arguments apply to online newspapers. Visitors wish to surf effortlessly across the relevant online properties and are irked by the need to subscribe and log in. Given that so much good material is available for free, they may resent having to pay in advance for material that may even not be of the same quality.
If anyone needed convincing, the removal of the wall around one of the most prestigious online properties should be sufficient proof. Today the word on the street is that the New York Times has confirmed that its online version, TimesSelect, will now be freely available. Visitor traffic is in decline and the journalists involved would prefer to have greater exposure for their works. It raises the question as to how long the Montreal Gazette will continue to charge for access to its online Digital Gazette.