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Stalemate, again. Hands up if you pay for news?

November 24, 2009

So we’re back to the paywall debate, and Murdoch now wants to exclude Google and hook up with Microsoft Bing.

In the Independent, Mike Masnick of  Techdirt says: “If your business is focused on making life more difficult for a competitor, rather than adding more value to users, you’re doing the wrong thing.”

That really makes sense to me. “Adding more value” means collaboration, making life easier, and using technology to lower costs (or just be free).

Also, Google is a search engine. Search is the key word here. During a social media round-table debate TTG held in August, Immediate Future’s Niall O’Malley summed it up best when he said everything Google creates is just interference, search is what it really does.

Google is acting as the gateway to all forms of content, and it probably doesn’t care which of its applications we use to get it. Gmail, Wave, Youtube – even that old fashioned website will do. Its news reader is just one aspect. It will still find the “news” – cached, on other websites, on aggregator blogs, the BBC, news agencies and so on. (Analysis, that’s a different story).

With these apps that Google’s built in its spare time, it’s done more than enough damage to its competitors and one way or another, we’ll all be using Google to access news. And yes, it will take all of the advertising money from associated links thank you very much.

As the successful publication websites carry on developing interaction, collaboration and crowd-sourcing, commenting still remains a key factor, and allows the egos of writers to thrive (just look at the success of the Guardian).

But you have to write differently for the web. People want to be outraged, spurred on to comment, and have their say, amused… writers must give them what they want.

Meanwhile, in France, journalists at Le Monde are preparing a strike over increased workloads for the web – for the bilingual followers of this blog, read what’s happening here. Read the comments – funny how there’s a lot of love for the Guardian there.

So lets adapt, and of course at the same time look for new revenue models. Sophisticated interactive campaigns, microsites, buzz marketing… charging for news, as a commodity, is not going to work. The cracks in the paywall have just got bigger.

And just out of interest, if you’ve got this far reading this post, do you subscribe (as in pay) to any news websites? Would be interested to hear your thoughts…

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Stuart permalink
    November 24, 2009 11:27 pm

    Do I pay to access news sites now? No. Would I they went behind a paywall? Yes. If the fee was right…say $5 per month per paper I’d cough up for guardian nyt and perhaps the independent. Can’t think of many others though… Something about that quality thing! As much as I hate to say it could be a smart move by Murdoch, assuming he gets enough papers on board. Certainly would be a great move by bing, which is already quite a good search engine.

  2. November 24, 2009 11:45 pm

    I went into my local M&S foodstore this evening. By the queue for the tills was a stand with cardboard boxes about the thickness of a DVD case but 2/3rds the size. Each was a year’s subscription to a magazine – Bella, Hello, Cosmo, that sort of thing. Prices around £33. I wondered two things: WTF was inside the box? And would we be buying subscriptions to Times Online that way in the future?

  3. November 25, 2009 10:36 am

    This article (from Times Online, no less!) touches on how once something is published online, it is likely to spread, to be shared via email, on PCs and of course on other sites. It also touches on how difficult it can be to have content removed from Google’s cache… there’s clearly people at the Times who understand the internet better than their CEO does!

    The way sites share news, I can’t see how once News Ints’ pay wall is up their content won’t be available elsewhere, so I don’t see the point in paying for (their) news. As for features & comment, I’m not a regular Times reader, and only arrive at their site if I’ve seen something interesting on Twitter or any other social media/content aggregator site – so I’d see it somehow somewhere in the the cache you’ve mentioned.

    Like Stuart I’d consider paying for content from the Guardian, not news though, I’d find that elsewhere, but features, videos, maybe podcasts. I’d almost definitely pay for a decent iPhone app from them – an example of a new revenue model.

  4. Matt Parsons permalink*
    November 27, 2009 12:47 pm

    Thanks for the comments. For the record – I only subscribe to one magazine (Time Out) but not online – hard copy. Nothing online at the moment…

  5. November 27, 2009 1:05 pm

    I don’t pay for news and I wouldn’t pay for news in future. Since we have to endure the saturation of third party advertising when we read free news I consider this a fair trade off. If I paid for news would the providers stop bombarding us with adverts?..would the b*%$?ocks! I also think that making people pay for news will only allow news int’s smaller rivals to take advantage and increase their market share by offering news for free. Which would probably allow them to charge more for their advertising.

  6. Matt Parsons permalink*
    November 27, 2009 1:30 pm

    Yep – well said. So it’s stalemate

  7. November 27, 2009 1:36 pm

    My online magazine at http://www.hoteldesigns has 70,000 visits/half million page reads a month. I have a pay wall to an area with content not available anywhere else on the web. First year subscriptions (£35 per year) have totalled about 400


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