There are increasing rumblings in the online newspaper world as Lionel Barber, the editor of the Financial Times speaking at a Media Standards Trust event, said he expects almost all newspapers to begin charging for their online content within a year, echoing News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch’s recent prediction. Both the Financial Times and Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal currently offer some free content but charge for premium access. Murdoch plans to start charging for access to all their sites within a year. This month, the New York Times decided it would move ahead with its plan to charge for online content after proposing the idea to readers through a survey, asking: “How likely would you be to pay a $2.50 monthly fee — which would be a 50% discount for home delivery subscribers — for continued, unlimited access to nytimes.com?”
So how would you feel if you had to start paying for access to online newspapers? You probably wouldn’t care; I certainly wouldn’t, but it seems as if, in these ever increasing hard economic times, it is certainly the route that most newspaper companies are heading, as a way to recoup their falling revenues from advertisers who are abandoning them in their droves, along with the purchasers of their newspapers.
I can understand why people would pay for financial information etc., but why would we bother to pay for general news stories, which form the bulk of the copy, when we’ve got used to having instant access to information via mobiles as well as our computers? With the onslaught of Twitter and other social networking sites, the world can know about events from people who are there, long before the news networks get their people on location. For example, news of Michael Jackson’s death appeared on both, hours before the story was covered by official news sources.
In my opinion, the newspapers need to think ‘outside the box’ in the same way that glossy magazines did a few years ago. The relatively ‘cheap treat’ for a woman of buying a magazine that she can pick up and read wherever she wants (which now also come in different sizes, so you can even choose one that even fits in your handbag!) will always exist; but when a monthly magazine has long lead times, the website offers the perfect channel for covering all sorts of stories that would otherwise be ignored as old news by the time the next issue was going to the printers.
The successful launch of the UK Vogue site some years ago allowed different editorial content to be created, so that fashionistas could have a daily fix of fashion news which complemented their monthly magazine read. It ensured that the catwalk shows could be covered instantly, with image and video coverage of not just the clothes, but interviews with the designers and coverage of who was attending which shows and with whom – all compulsive information for people in and lovers of the fashion industry!
But the secret to their success was providing something new and different that readers couldn’t easily get from other sources. With a dedicated team with their fingers on the pulse, they could provide all the inside track on their site, but free of charge. Although online newspapers can potentially do the same thing, why on earth would we ever be persuaded to pay for news that we can get from lots of other sources? Beats me…
Client Services Director