Left Bay’s Musings on the Media

Searching for answers in sales and marketing

Archive for May, 2009

Why Pay Walls Won’t Save Newspapers

I’m reading an online New York Times article about how “Pay Walls Alone Won’t Save Newspapers.” Of course I’m not paying anything to read this piece, or any other, as I peruse today’s headlines. But will I in the future? Author Eric Pfanner argues that though the case for charging for online content seems pretty clear, “if only because publishers have nothing to lose.“ But pay walls, he predicts, will only likely be a “transitional step.” Why? There are too many advertising dollars to lose, and too few people willing to pay for content.

Look to the music industry for an analogy, he says: In spite of iTunes and laws against unauthorized sharing of digital music, industry analysts suggest that 95% of music is still pirated “and record industry sales are still falling at double-digit rates.”

Pfanner says that while pay walls may be a start, few people are going to want to dozens of newspapers online. Instead, it might be possible to get people to pay if access to newspapers were bundled with other things people want from the Internet, like “films, music, games, and social networking.”

I think we’re going to have to try lots of different options. But what we’re creating at Kachingle seems the most simple of all. Erect no pay walls. Continue allowing articles to be freely distributed in order to maximize advertising. At the same time, put the power to choose to pay in the hands of the users. Put aside a fix amount of money each month. Allocate it fairly by the percentage of daily visits to Kachingle-enabled sites.

Above all, make it easy to use.

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Still Trying to “Save” Journalism

There are a lot of ideas being floated about for “saving journalism.” None alone may work, but all should be tried. We at Kachingle are developing our own model, of course, one that combines an easy contribution approach with social recognition.

A lot of folks believe a subscription approach may still work. In mid-April, we heard about JournalismOnline, which will be a subscription model with a passport key to access member-publisher’s websites. “The website will provide a way for publishers of quality journalism to charge whatever they believe is a reasonable amount for their content in ways that are seamlessly convenient for readers,” explained co-founder Leo Hindery.

The challenge with such a model is that most users have shown they won’t pay for something they haven’t read. That’s the problem with all subscription-based models – there are too many free alternatives. Clearly, JournalismOnline wants to get a critical mass of publishers signed up. The question is, can they do it?

Now comes word that News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch has assembled a high level team that is devising a system to charge for web content. The New York Post reports that the team is looking to create a “user-friendly device akin to Amazon’s Kindle“ to deliver content from News Corp newspapers, like the Wall Street Journal, The Times of London and the New York Post.

Traditionally, print advertisers have preferred paid subscribers to free recipients because there’s a higher perceived value if someone is paying for the product. However, one of those perceived advantages – demographic data – has diminished as online cookie-based behavior-tracking has allowed publishers to back out data about its visitors, which in turn, has helped advertisers better target their message.

It’ll be a neat trick if they can make it all work.