WaPo’s Brauchli: Evaluating Online Fee Options ‘Prudently’


imageOne question that inevitably comes up these days when a top newspaper exec talks online with readers: How can I pay you for online news? (Of course, that shouldn’t be interpreted as a sign that enough readers want to pay for online news to make it work.) Today was Washington Post Managing Editor Marcus Brauchli’s turn and, while the response didn’t move the needle one bit, it does offer a little insight into the way the paper is approaching the matter: “We’ve certainly considered whether it would be possible to charge for our content online. We fund our news operations from revenues generated largely by advertising. Online advertisers pay for an audience–the larger, the better. If we put up a wall that readers would have to pay to cross, and then readers didn’t cross it, our advertising revenues would probably suffer. So we are, you might say, evaluating our options prudently.”

But the rest of his answer sounds a lot less active in terms of options — and very uncertain that there is one: “That said, just about everybody in the news business is thinking about the question of whether or how to charge for news online. And if there were an answer that made sense for our readers, our advertisers and us, we’d no doubt weigh it seriously.”

Kindle edition: Brauchli has hopes for paid distribution via hand-held devicesOne place to start might be with better promotion about what WaPo already sells, like subscriptions via the Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) Kindle. Brauchli told one happy-to-pay reader who wanted to know when WaPo would be on the Kindle: “We’re intrigued by the possibility of reaching a large audience through such hand-held readers, although so far the number of people who are reading The Post on Kindles is relatively small.”

Working on mobile: Another reader took the Post to task for a mobile service that “lags far behind the competition.” Brauchli: “We agree that our mobile site could be better, and we’re working on it. We’ve put a lot of effort into mobile news alerts in the last couple of months.”

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