Paywalls are essential, says ad man Sorrell

British advertising mogul Sir Martin Sorrell claims online paywalls will be "essential" if publishers want to make money in the digital age.

The CEO of communications (and basket-making) company WPP threw his wholehearted support behind the pay-to-view technology being employed by Rupert Murdoch's News International on the websites of UK newspapers The Times and Sunday Times.

"We think paywalls are essential because we think giving away content for free, particularly if consumers value that content, makes no sense." he told advertising industry mag Media Week. "Consumers have to pay for content they value."

The top ad man also claimed that advertisers would not be put off by the inevitable drop in audience sites will suffer by imposing a paywall.

"Clients are interested in targeted and focused communications, and marketing messages surrounding those that are going to be more effective," he said. "So if targeting is more effective they will buy into it, if it's not they won't."

Worryingly, though, Sorrell added that "electorates and governments are going to have to decide at some point in time whether they want to subsidise traditional media."

Reports concerning the success of News International paywall project have been mixed.

Blogger and former Times journalist Dan Sabbagh claimed that the number of people agreeing to buy subscriptions in the first two weeks after the paywall was introduced was as low as 15,000.

Media Week reports that a source at News International has said an official statement about the paywalls will be made within the next 30 days.