When The Straits Times started charging for access all those years ago it was the wrong move. Why pay to access the reporting of a mass media outlet that is ranked either 147th or 154th in the world depending on your ranking source. The paper is losing revenue as are so many other newspapers around the world. The 20 - 30 generation are going online to get news that matters to them. Not news filtered by a process of 'self-censorship' or by a regime that demands control over all that is written.
Simply no longer charging visitors to view your advertisements and state-controlled press releases is not going to turn the fortunes of the ST around over night. Trying to isolate yourself from the global market of media and cultural production by charging your readers and hoping that they show loyalty to you was mis-guided. But until the Straits Times journalists are able to compete on the global playing-field without the dead-weight of self-censorship and state control - all the technology in the world will not alter the image of the Straits Times as a state owned and controlled propaganda outlet.
FROM Tuesday, visitors to The Straits Times' (ST) website will not have to pay to read the latest breaking news from Singapore and the world.
They can also post their views - in real time - on the reports they read.
One other major change: The site will drop its 12-year-old name, The Straits Times Interactive, or STI, and go with the cleaner 'straitstimes.com'.
Since becoming a subscription site in 2005, it has been offering only a small buffet of material for free:
1. ST's online forum letters;
2. Multimedia features, such as video news reports and podcasts;
3. A restricted selection of 20 reports from the print edition.
All other content, including breaking news and material picked up from the print edition of the newspaper itself, has been available only to subscribers in the past two years.
Explaining the move to open up more free-access content, ST editor Han Fook Kwang said: 'There's a great deal more we can do in the website to leverage on the award-winning talent in The Straits Times newsroom of writers, photographers, artists and designers. I think we've a good product and we want to make it available to more people in cyberspace, and to use the technology available on the web to make it an even better product.'
Here is the real reason ....