Tuesday, August 11, 2009

No more free lunch?

News item: Boston Globe ponders charges for online content
BOSTON — The Boston Globe is moving toward charging readers for online content, while its parent, The New York Times Co., explores a possible — but not certain — sale of the newspaper.

"Nothing is absolute, but we are heading toward some sort of consumer pay model," for its Web site Boston.com, Globe spokesman Bob Powers said Friday.
Many other publications have developed online subscription models or are considering doing so as the industry tries to recover from the one-two punch of readers — and advertisers — abandoning print versions for the Internet and the recession that has further weakened ad sales
About a year ago, I had an email conversation with an Arkansas newspaper columnist that started when I couldn't access a column he'd written. I asked him why his paper, The Arkansas Democrat, charged for online access to the paper's Web site.

His response:
As for the pay--per-view, I have just about come around to our owner's thinking. From the git-go, he said he wasn't going to give away the print content. He has been a lone voice, and I thought he was wrong.

But this is the only publisher in the history of American journalism to run Gannett out of town, which he did after a bloody and expensive war in the late '80s and early '90s.

(We're still a family-owned, privately held company.)

Our circulation has remained steady, our penetration is the highest in the country.

Profit wise, things are tight, but we haven't laid off any body. So what do I know?

best regards,
I am a news junkie. I get my daily fix from half a dozen or so newspaper Web sites. For free.

All of my newspaper Web site browsing would come to a rather abrupt halt if all of those newspapers started charging for access to their Web sites.

And why shouldn't they charge?

They have to pay reporters, photographers and editors to gather the news and put it in the paper.

But as print advertising and reader subscription revenues shrink, newspaper publishers are looking towards their Web sites to pick up the slack.

So while I enjoy reading news (for free) on dozens of newspaper Web sites, I've never understood why newspaper publishers thought it was a good idea to give away their content for free and then charge for the same content the next day in the form of the printed product.

But the end of the dead tree version of newspapers is coming; and sooner rather than later.

Here in Miami, the Herald's print circulation has steadily declined over the past few years.

When new circulation numbers are released sometime this fall, the Herald's daily circulation will probably dip below 200,000.

The Herald, like other newspapers, is trying to figure out how to make as much money from their Web site as they once did from their print versions. So far no one has.

One estimate says "Industry-wide, newspapers pull in 7 percent of their ad revenue from their Web sites. For the New York Times, the figure is 11 percent."

You don't need a PhD in economics to figure out that newspapers are going to have to look for other sources of revenue if they are to remain viable.

And to do that they may have to start charging for content they once gave away for free.

(Newspapers aren't the only business taking a hit because of free online content. The LA Times reports today that the adult entertainment business is suffering: "A growing abundance of free content on the Internet is undercutting consumers' willingness to pay for porn.)

In addition to the Globe, its parent company the New York Times, is also considering a $5 monthly fee for access to the newspaper’s Web site.

Rupert Murdoch, owner of the Wall Street Journal, has also announced plans to start charging for online news content by July 2010.

There's no evidence that the Herald - or its parent company McClatchy - are considering charging for access to their Web sites. Yet.

But if you woke up tomorrow and learned that the Herald was going to start charging for access to its Web site, would you be willing to pay?

Cast your vote below.

1 comment:

  1. I would pay for the news on a website providing that I was getting something in return. I currently pay for the newspaper to be delivered, but there are many reasons for that. If I were to pay for web news I would need decreased ad space and quality writing. Something that is often lacking at the herald. I would also need to have some kind of exclusive content, stuff that is only available on the herald.


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