FT Editor Expects ‘Almost All’ Papers To Charge Online In 2010

Lionel Barber, FT editor

Does the FT’s editor know something we don’t? The obvious answer is “of course he does – lots”; but Lionel Barber is also more optimistic than most on how many newspapers will ape FT.com by charging for content…

“How these online payment models work and how much revenue they can generate is still up in the air. But I confidently predict that within the next 12 months, almost all news organisations will be charging for content,” he told a Wednesday-night event (via Guardian.co.uk) (full speech at Press Gazette)…

Almost all? That’s at odds with the wisdom that recently emerged around the resuscitated paidcontent debate – that specialist titles like FT.com can charge but consumer news outlets will find it difficult. In a Radio 4 discussion with me in May, FT’s own CEO John Ridding said it’s a “much more difficult proposition for those in the commodity news area”.

But Barber says people will pay even at the consumer level “If they feel it’s distinctive enough … you’ve got to be different” … “it’s the people in the mediocre middle that are going to be the meat in the sandwich”.

FT.com publisher Rob Grimshaw told us in May the site was growing by up to 15,000 free registrations a week and had reached 1.3 million non-paying registrants, 110,000 paying subscribers and a publishing business that was two-thirds digital.

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