More on Paid Content

Just a few days after I wondered Who Will Pay for news, comes Henry Blodget suggesting that the New York Times should consider charging for web subscriptions. Commenting on the NYT’s response to Michael Hirschorn’s slightly hysterical Atlantic article on the likelihood of a Times bankruptcy, Blodget lists three things the Times should do:
  • Cut costs at least 20% this year and 20% next year
  • Continue to raise subscription prices for the print edition
  • Explore charging $80-$100 a year for a web subscription

It was #3 that caught my attention. Blodget admits that the notion is “sacrilege” – a perfect term given the religion that’s grown up around free content – and says he’ll defend it in a future post.  I can think of a way to defend it right now – If the content is valuable, people will pay, if it’s not, the Times shouldn’t waste its time putting it out.

The reality is that smaller news organizations may actually have an easier time charging for their content.  The Times is best known for its national and global coverage, news that can be found everywhere online.  The news produced by smaller metro papers though, can’t.  Who else can cover Indianapolis or Atlanta or San Diego the way the local media companies can? 

Way back in the mid-nineties, I thought there was a good chance online content would go the way of the cable network – ISPs would pay content producers to give the ISP’s subscribers access.  This would be how ISPs competed – packages of content for their subs. It sounds quaint now, but who knows, sooner or later everything old is new again.

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