The meek shall inherit the earth?

Well, as Monty Python pointed out, the meek have had a hell of a time*. 

I had a thought last night about newspaper pay walls. It’s a very lazy thought, and I’m jumping to conclusions (hence why this is on my personal blog and not or

It’s a jump to conclusions matt! – If you don’t get this you need to watch Mike Judge’s movie ‘Office Space’ – the image is CC licensed

The conclusion I’m jumping to is about the meek. Or more specifically, readers of The Guardian. Looks like they get to inherit the earth pretty soon, and it’s all thanks to Rupert Murdoch. Well, I say the earth, that’s a bit strong. But the meek will get to win the battle for ideas, and The Guardian will represent the mainstream common sense thinking of the UK. Here’s how we can jump to that conclusion in three easy steps:

  1. News Corporation has its sights fixed on putting all of their content behind a paywall, and are intent on dragging the rest of the industry in behind them (see this and so many other blogs on the subject or just read James Murdoch’s speech to the Edinburgh TV Festival).
  2. The Guardian will not put their online content behind a pay wall. In the 30th August 2009 Media Talk podcast from The Guardian a hung over (she hints she’s still tipsy) Emily Bell is asked outright about putting content behind a paywall and she answers quite strongly: “No, it’s a stupid idea!” (11:45 in)
  3. News Corporation’s sudden thrust towards paid content flies in the face of the other great media business ideology of our time (and by our time I mean, this summer): Free. Everyone’s been talking about Free for a number of years, and Chris Anderson has distilled all that thought into a book called Free where he says “Free” nearly every other word (and if you listen to the free Free audiobook, you can hear him pronounce the capital letter every time he says it!). 

If you’re Andersonian in thought, then the logical end point of a free to consumer Guardian and BBC versus a charge to consumer everything else will be that the only voices being heard are The Guardian and The BBCDo you remember the Yes Minister speech on who reads which newspapers? If you don’t remind yourself of what they said:

If Anderson’s right, and if News Corp and Guardian Media stick to their guns that speech will be a lot shorter:

“The Guardian is read by everybody, and the rest of the media companies closed”

Even though a meek Britain fits my personal worldview and politics quite nicely, I’m not sure how comfortable I am with pluralism committing hara-kiri so spectacularly. 
If you want a more thoughtful discussion on this, try my colleague Paul Bradshaw’s blog: here’s his take on paywalls.


* The cheesmakers are also quite blessed see:

By Jon Hickman

Hi, I'm Jon. I teach and research digital culture, social media and new media practice at Birmingham City University. Find out more about me with this lovely CV: Find out about my work at the Birmingham Centre for Media & Cultural Research: