Archive for August, 2009

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A piece in today’s Financial Times focuses on US start-up Journalism Online – reporting that more than 500 newspapers and magazines are joining the ‘online payment platform’. The idea is a one-stop payment shop for a whole host of providers.

Lately – and especially since Rupert Murdoch threw his (renewed) weight behind charging for content- I’ve heard numerous commentators state that if it can be made easy to pay, then people will do so. Even Charlie Brooker has been on the case .

Most likely, a model like Journalism Online’s is the way to go. Whether it will be them that succeed is another question, but the interesting thing is the reasons they think it will work.  Describing ‘Why Readers Will Pay For Online News’, the company seems to simply be stating ‘Why News Organisations Can’t Keep Offering Content For Free’. These are clearly not the same thing – just because your news organisation (the founders are, I understand, former journalists) can’t survive without revenue being kept up, does not mean that people will pay for it. Try looking from the other side.

Personally, I think that those that have the money, and the desire for quality news, will slowly come to the acceptance that they will need to pay a small amount for it. Millions will not pay, and will get their news from secondary sources. But if the price is right (ie , low – think how internationally popular British papers, for instance, would see readers drop off  if readers in poorer countries were forced to pay an amount that was deemed reasonable in Britain), they’ll make themselves some money.

But publishers shouldn’t forget that different people have different means. The FT points out in the aforementioned piece that the Wall Street Journal and the FT themselves have been succesful at implementing paid models. Well, I think we can all agree that firstly, most readers of the FT and WSJ are searching for niche news. But arguably more importantly, most readers of the WSJ and FT are not short of a bob or two. What works for them may not keep others going.  As someone who has essentially lost a job twice this year due to media organisations/content creators spending more than they bring in, I can agree that this has to be fixed soon. But just because turkies don’t vote for Christmas, we can’t assume cost-free turkies wouldn’t go down equally well,  if not better, than their free range, organic grain-fed cousins.

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