At a cable industry gathering earlier this week, News Corp. founder and CEO Rupert Murdoch opined that more newspapers should take a cue from the Wall Street Journal and have customers pay for content. He thinks The New York Times in particular could benefit from making […]

At a cable industry gathering earlier this week, News Corp. founder and CEO Rupert Murdoch opined that more newspapers should take a cue from the Wall Street Journal and have customers pay for content. He thinks The New York Times in particular could benefit from making such a premium move. Meanwhile, over on the Nieman Journalism Lab Blog, Martin Langeveld tries to make the case that the more they charge, the less money the newspaper companies will make.

They’re both interesting theories, especially considering that advertising on the web has thus far proven to be the one big winner. Down in Austin, Texas, Trilogy, a once-high-flying startup, is “reinventing the newspaper business for the Internet Age,” with a venture-backed online newspaper. I wonder what you guys think: Will you pay for content on the web? If yes, what kind of content? And no, porn doesn’t count.

  1. If newspapers want to cover their online editions with WSJ type keylock images then they should think really hard about why they have an online edition at all. I won’t miss em if they disappear .

    1. There is NO WAY in the world; beyond Mr Murdock’s world that there will be an ongoing successful model for paying for content. If I do a search for a news topic, I get a million sources. WHY would I pay for something so readily abundant and FREELY available?
      It is NOT going to happen. It is just wishful thinking for Rupert Murdock.

    2. You can back into those articles for free from from Google News. Just copy and paste the title of the locked article you want into the Google News search and go.

    3. Oh foolish people. If newspapers all go paid online, there will be no free content available. Who do you think provides the content you are currently seeing online?

  2. Chuck Boyce Friday, April 3, 2009

    Hi Om,

    Hope you are doing well. The only way that newspapers can survive by charging for online content is if they discover a time machine. That way they can go back to the mid 1990’s and stop the mad rush for “mindshare” during the dotcom days of Pets.com and argue against the strategy of giving everything away to capture consumers brand loyalty for life. Remember that one?

    The horse has been out of the barn for over a decade. It’s too late to close the barn door now. People expect everything for free and businesses set that expectation over several years.


  3. I’d pay for a site aggregating certain insightful and fearless writers/bloggers. I would never pay for any of the establishment media because I never ever learn anything from them. Useless all of them.

  4. g2-b97d1c621f74a650560fd5823d464d1f Friday, April 3, 2009

    I think they should charge for it, but the charge needs to be reasonable. Most of the time they charge way too much for something that didn’t require paper, printing or distribution. I’d gladly pay 2 dollars a month for a news paper and up to 10 dollars a year for a magazine, but no more than that. Too often the online content costs more than print and all that does is drive people to free sources. Make it reasonable and people don’t mind giving their support. I didn’t vote in your poll up there because you didn’t have an option for “reasonable cost.”

  5. Chris G – Art Director Friday, April 3, 2009

    I know some papers have their current issue online for free (ad supported) but to read back issues you have to pay a small fee. Sometimes it’s something like $5 access for their full back catalog of issues for the day, other sites I’ve seen daily access to for as little as 25¢ for a single story.

    I think disruption should also be an option. Don’t want to pay for the content? Then watch a 30 second spot before the content is unlocked. Something similar to what Salon does.

    I think other writers will fair better if they strike-out on their own, paying themselves by collecting ad revenue from their own blogs, and taking their employer (the middle man) out of the loop. Perhaps creating affiliate blogs between various reputable reporters and selling their ad media as a network.

    Here’s a good story worth reading:
    Clay Shirky – Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable

  6. Print newspapers make most of their money off ads as it is. The cost of a paper is a supplementary charge. Given that print distribution has exorbitant costs, online distribution is a major cost savings to traditional print publishers. Why don’t they just make the transition??? Because print circulation is about 10% of total audience reach, while online advertising revenue is 10% of total ad revenue — the economics are nearly the perfect inverse of what they should be.

    How is this possible?

    Print advertising generates way more revenue because expenditures by marketers far outweigh online spends.
    Print advertising generates way more revenue because it’s for more expensive on a per view basis.
    The last generation of marketers have been slow to adapt.

    It’s inevitable that print distribution will fade away.

    Online advertising is growing while advertising in general is declining right now.
    The price gap for advertising will continue to narrow.
    Nowadays, even the smallest of marketers can easily set up online campaigns now that will outperform comparable print campaigns.

    The gutenberg press was innovative centuries ago. It’s time for Print news publishers to get leaner and adapt. Charging for premium content online is the best idea they can come up with? I’m not buying it!

  7. Om,

    I’m not a fan of subscriptions. You can get readers to subscribe to one or two publishers perhaps, but the beauty of the web is in constantly finding interesting content from disparate sources.

    So instead I think they should charge per article using micropayments.

    So much has been said lately by Shirky and others about why micropayments won’t work which is very narrow-minded in my opinion. Micropayments can and would work if publishers offered both free and paid versions of their content. Casual readers could dip their toes with the free version, but habitual readers would pay a few cents to get a clean page with no pagination or ads, unmoderated comments, exclusive features, etc.


  8. Sorry, I didn’t realize my link (above) would be shortened. It’s a blog entry a couple months old with some additional ideas on how to make micropayments work. Here it is again:


  9. Make no mistake…cracking the local news “newspaper 2.0″ is one of the biggest opportunities of the past 20 years. The time is right.

  10. online publication are already advt supported and have no associated cost of printing and distribution …online content should be always free as advt supported

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