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Charging For Online Newspaper Content-Popular Themes

Posted by Dan Vigil on February 6, 2009

As reported by paidContent.org this week, NYT editor Bill Keller discussed the following  popular themes as they pertain to charging for online content: “subscription model, micropayments, revenue sharing via devices like Amazon’s Kindle and the non-profit route.”

I’ve included a brief description of each below along with some thoughts on each theme.

1. The Subscription Model: This is basically the abandoned TimeSelect model, with the right kind of information behind the wall this time around.

-While this will be challenging because of the loss of ad revenue to sections behind the wall, I believe people may pay subscriptions for databases and tools to interact with content rather than simply premium text, pictures and videos.

2.The Micro Payments Model: This is a model similar to iTunes, whereby readers would pay small amounts for content they want rather than a full subscription price for all of it.

– I don’t think this model is viable, in the same way that iTunes works. That is, people won’t pay small amounts for text, pictures, and video.  Even if someone does pay, these things are easily shared online, it would be difficult to keep someone from sharing content that they purchased. Newspapers are more likely to be able sell small I-phone type applications that make it more convenient and easy to view content.

3.The Kindle Model: This allows the newspapers to generate revenue from downloads of the newspaper to Amazon’s Kindle reader. NYT is already doing this.

-I’m not sure how the revenue share is setup, but this model makes sense because we’re making content more convenient for the reader and rematerializing it. It looks and feels like the physical paper again through a handheld reader. I wouldn’t stop at the Kindle though. Just this week Google launched a mobile version of Google Book Search, making 1.5 million public domain books readable on small mobile phone screens. While its doubtful that someone would read an entire novel on their cell phone, they will read newspaper articles.  As mobile technology advances I think Amazon’s Kindle will be facing some serious competition.

4. The Non-Profit Model: This is essentially a bail out of newspapers by philanthropists and devout readers who are interested in keeping the paper alive.  Newspapers could start endowments and allow readers to contribute.

-While this is highly unlikely in the U.S., we have seen the government step in to bail out  newspapers in France. In an effort to boost reading habits, French president Nicolas Sarkozy  is providing a free subscription for one year to all 18 year olds in the country, this is paid for by the government.  read the full article here. 

I think Newspapers should find away to bundle their subscriptions in with other services. Maybe a digital version of your daily newspaper is included in your cable bill  and accessible on a channel. Or maybe it’s part of your phone bill. Verizon released it’s new Verizon Hub this week in effort to thwart further declines in its wireline phone business (more households are moving toward wireless only service). This new device with a large screen and broadband connection offers local traffic, weather, business and movie listings. Why not offer the daily newspaper as well.

As Gerd Leonhard might say, the daily news doesn’t have to be free it just needs to “Feel Like Free”.

“The Word Is Alive”
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One Response to “Charging For Online Newspaper Content-Popular Themes”

  1. […] Project, Brandon Mendelson, Mark Potts, Alan Mutter, Steve Outing, Philip Meyer, Jane Stevens, Dan Vigil, Jeff Jarvis, Clay Shirky, my pal Paul Andrews, and ex-Microsoftie Michael […]

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