Paid For Content?

It’s not ‘news’ that the newspaper industry has been facing a very difficult time lately, the competition, first from 24 hour TV-news channels and then obviously from the internet has squeezed the profit and margins from all of the traditional papers and this week sees one of the biggest newspaper publishers starting to charge for content online.

Johnston Press websites, according to the BBC, will be asking users to either pay £5 for a three-month subscription (allowing them to read full articles), or direct them to buy the newspapers.  This is apparently a trial but it seems to be an idea that is likely to stick. We have heard a number of organisations talking-up this idea lately (and there are obviously a number of sites which already require log-ins and subscriptions for you to access full articles). Recently Rupert Murdoch made it clear he was unhappy about ‘his’ news being available for nothing online – interviewed on Sky News, he “suggested the company’s online newspaper pages will be invisible to Google users when it launches its new paid content strategy”. He went on to say “There’s not enough advertising in the world to make all the websites profitable. We’d rather have fewer people coming to our websites but paying…There are no news websites or blog websites anywhere in the world making any serious money, some may be breaking even or making a couple of million.” And with titles like The Sun, The Times and The News of The World in his stable, Murdoch’s attitude to the online news industry has to be taken pretty seriously.

So is it fair that we should have to pay for news content online? The answer is probably yes, we have to pay for a newspaper and we have to fund BBC News 24 by buying a TV licence and so why should we get the news online for free? Advertising can certainly help to reduce the cost to the consumer but if Murdoch’s above quote is to be believed, the news organisations don’t make much money out of that revenue stream anyway.

The internet has provided us with a huge range of information and of course sites like wikipedia are free to access (although they are currently very keen to attract donations to keep the site going) but it does seem there is a shift now, towards clawing back some of these free services and making sure that we, as consumers of internet information, are required to pay in some form. Having said that we have also heard recently that YouTube are due to increase the amount of ‘official’ as opposed to user generated content they have on their site (although we do now get quite annoying pop-ups on YouTube videos, convincing us to click through to purchase something or other), so the days of getting something for nothing are far from over. The success of Google and their advertising business would also suggest that there’s still plenty of budget around to spend on pay per click ads and so Google for one will want to ensure there’s some accessible content on the other side of that click.

What’s our advice? Make the most of the free service while you can, once Murdoch changes the rules, others are sure to race to follow in his footsteps – we’ll be sure to give you all plenty of warning if we decide to start charging people to read our blog!

Written by Will Edwards – – November 2009.

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