A subscription-based model for newspapers? Rupert Murdoch is going to try it

Posted on August 11, 2009

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According to the Guardian, Rupert Murdoch will be requiring readers of all his news websites to pay for content by this time next summer.
That includes the Times, the Sun and the News of the World in England. In the U.S., it would impact WSJ.com, who already charge for content, FoxNews.com, and NYPost.
The Guardian reported, “Stung by a collapse in advertising revenue as the recession shredded Fleet Street’s traditional business model, Murdoch declared that the era of a free-for-all in online news was over. ‘Quality journalism is not cheap,’ said Murdoch. ‘The digital revolution has opened many new and inexpensive distribution channels but it has not made content free. We intend to charge for all our news websites.'”
Now, there is no idea what he is going to charge. My guess: He will use the Wall Street Journal’s system as a model. For access to WSJ.com, they charge $103 for 52 weeks of access.
The Guardian reported that, “Murdoch said he was keen to capitalise on the popularity of celebrity stories: ‘When we have a celebrity scoop, the number of hits we get now are astronomical.'”

Is he nuts? More like sucidial. The main reason: There will ALWAYS be free alternatives to the same news.

For example, the London newspapers owned by Murcoch will only increase the traffic to the British Broadcasting Corp.’s (BBC) website. Because it is state-supported, it will always be free.

If the New York Post goes behind the paywall, there will ALWAYS be Perez Hilton, TMZ, and smaller gossip websites that will be free to tell the public who is currently dating some superstar athlete or why Jon and Kate are getting a divorce.


The problem: Newspapers as a whole have been slow to adjust to the Internet and now they are trying to fix it by forcing the audience to pay for content.

There are three reasons why the “paywall” fails as a concept, in most cases.

1. You lose audience when you go behind a paywall.
2. When you lose audience, you lose advertisers.
3. Also, your stories will no longer be on the first page or two of Google when people do a search for your content. If it is not in the top two pages in a Google search, it does not exist.


Going behind a paywall will almost instantly create startups that will try to undercut you and take your audience with free content.

So what do you think? Would you pay for news about the Titans or UT football?

Links:

Here is a great article about paid vs. free debate in news. It was a study done in 2001. The findings confirm that people do not want to pay for news.

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Posted in: Internet