news, publishing

THE question: to charge or not to charge

If newspapers are going to charge for online content, they need to offer a variety of options for their audience, both micropayments and subscription models: to find out what people are willing to pay and maximise options whilst there are few general examples of this strategy outside of niche or high value content.

Otherwise publishers could end up alienating either those that would have subscribed or those that just want to dip in and out. Why limit your audience? Guardian director of digital content Emily Bell said recently:

“If companies are going to try this route, they will have to accept a great dip in audience figures and consequently levels of interaction.

they are a stupid idea in that they restrict audiences for largely replicable content…Our strategy is entirely around reach and audience engagement – both if which would be irreparably damaged by paywalls.”

What’s wrong with people that aren’t regular visitors – get them in and then keep them a while with sticky content. But maybe those that remained would be keener to be involved having invested, creating a stronger potential community?

That’s one problem with free access sites: they don’t necessarily encourage loyalty, that relies on consistently churning out good content or having killer features, and that does cost money.

Newspaper readers have paid for their product, so there is cause to  make the most of it, but online where access is free, people can browse where and when and for how long they please, as Steve Busfield said on guardian.co.uk’s Organ Grinder blog:

“one has to presume that the newspaper readers buy their print copy and spend at least half an hour a day reading a wide array of content. They are engaged, regular, paying. Web readers are valued too (otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this blog), but they are not paying the bills.”

The story continues…

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