Thursday, February 19, 2009

To Pay or ...

I'm curious what you all make of the discussion about paying for magazine and newspaper content online. This piece in Slate is one out of a whole string of things that have shown up -- first in David Carr's business column in the NY Times, then on the cover of Time Magazine (maybe you saw Walter Isaacson discussing his story about the future of Linknewspapers on The Daily Show?), on the opinion pages of the Times, and elsewhere. The idea is that consumers, the public, (you/we) would be willing to pay "micropayments" for articles and stories online, in much the same way people pay for MP3s on iTunes.
So, informal poll then, how many of you pay for music? Would you be willing to pay 10 or 15 cents or a quarter for every story you wanted to read from your favorite magazines? (Magazines whose content, I'm assuming, you can't access fully online for free at the moment.) I feel like if I could read magazines like Mojo, Paste, NY Review of Books, the Believer, Cabinet (not even sure it that's still around), and lots more for such cheap little installments, I would. But maybe I'm dreaming. Maybe a $20 or $30 or maybe $50 monthly fee for reading stuff that I could just as easily browse through at Borders or at the library would be way out of my budget, especially in this economy.


  1. Yeah, that is a bit much to have to pay. And I understand the reasoning for payment of articles as if they were MP3s, because we don't own the content. On the other hand, I don't think there should be a fee for people to know what's going on in the world. Besides, you can always read an entire magazine at Borders and never have to pay for it, or pay the dreaded $4.99 if you want the publication that badly.

  2. I think if you have content that people want, you control the business model that goes along with it. ESPN is a great example of that. They offer much of their content for free, but also have an Insider package that gives you access to all of their main writers' and analysts' daily blogs and full chats with writers. This service is definitely worth the cost if you are an avid sports fan. Could a newspaper pull this off? No not at all. They don;t have the resources as well as the over abundance of copy where they could save stuff for web-only access. I would really be surprised if the concept of subscriptions makes it another few years before you see free or pay as you buy models popping up for most newspapers.

  3. The WSJ seems to have had some luck with the model.

  4. Ed brings up a good point in regard to the fact that a newspaper could not pull off the same "insider package" that ESPN can. Perhaps something else to consider is the timeliness of an article. If a consumer cannot get a newspaper article unless s/he has to pay for it on one site, even if that newspaper's site was the first to have the information, if the consumer waits, it is only a matter of time before the news will be availble from other sources, for free. Because of this, I agree with the idea that a newspaper will not be able to develop this. However, I do not think that it is because of lack of resources, I think that it is the nature of news travel that makes the difference.

  5. Could pose as a hindrance for students (K-12/college aged) researching articles outside of their institutions, especially those with low incomes.

    It's hard to say when we're so used to everything being so easily accessible online, I mean, they've made television shows viewable for free. I'd anticipate a lot of backlash/complaining.

    (Would probably help out bookstores though...)