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No more free newspaper content

May 10, 2009

It looks like News Corporation has made the decision to start charging for its online content. Although this is not new news, this whole topic was discussed and experimented with in the early days of Web 1.0, it’s now back on the agenda. With newspapers struggling for revenue, this seems to be the only way they can go.

However, it’s fraught with problems. Most internet users are pretty accustomed to free content and suddenly putting up walled gardens everywhere could have a huge impact on viewership and hence lead to massive declines in ad revenue. It will be interesting to see how much solidarity there will be between the different publishers and if some titles can benefit from holding out and not jumping into the fray.

In the end, newspapers have little choice, but to find new ways to make money. The simple fee based model for subs and article access might not be enough. These publishers are going to have to think harder about adding value to make this really attractive. If they use their imaginations, they will discover hundreds of ways of making an online newspaper subscription attractive.

If you’re a newspaper publisher and you think the solution is a digital facsimile of the analog version, you need to re-think.

Posted by Ed Cotton

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