Chuck's Q Blog


Just another ICM blog

Writing the new rules

Ask any newspaper editor where his company went wrong online and most will say, “We should have found a way to charge for the content.”

Though I’d argue that paper’s aren’t really “giving away” their online content (there is ad support, albeit not the kind that pays when compared to print ads), the new wave of delivery platforms may offer a chance for some news organizations to hit the reset button.

Each new platform will needs to find an audience. Once that happens, it’s up to content providers to decide how to package their product for that platform and what the traffic will bear in terms of pricing.

E-readers, like the Kindle and Nook, have found an audience (though the size of that group is a question). Both established that their products — mainly books, in this case — would be cheaper to buy in this format, but not free.

With the rules of the platform established, newspapers and magazines followed publishers to the e-reader market with subscription-based products. They already knew the people who owned these devices were willing to pay for content.

A single copy of the Columbus Dispatch will set you back $1 on the newsstand. It’s also a $1 on a Sony e-reader and  75 cents on a Kindle or Nook.

The same stories are free online and it’s iPhone app is free as well. (The rules for iPhone apps aren’t hard and fast, but free seems to be winning that fight.)

But when the paper develops an iPad app, how will it approach pricing?

Will it charge for the app? Will it provide the app and charge a subscription? Or will it view the app the same way it views the website (and its iPhone app) and give it away?

That’s a lot of questions and I don’t have answers for any of them.

Here’s one argument: If people are willing to pay for the device that creates a new platform, won’t they also be willing to pay for content? That’s the e-reader model.

You might suggest that people can’t surf the Web without buying a computer, and that’s true. But they don’t pay for browsers and after more than a decade online, they don’t expect to pay for their news. That model was cast a long time ago.

Over the next year, newspapers will be closely watching The New York Times to see if it can further define compensation rules for several platforms.

The Times has a Kindle edition that costs money — and lots of it; $828 for a year’s subscription to the national edition of the paper. It also has a free “editor’s choice” iPad edition and it’s website is free (after registration).

Of those three platforms, none is likely to be free after the first of the year. The Times is working on a “paywall,” or subscription service, for its website. It’s also believed to be developing a paid iPad version that will include all the content found in each edition instead of the selected stories now packaged in its free editor’s choice app (though it’s believed it’s deal with Amazon could be getting in the way).

If those projects are accepted by its readers, other newspapers are likely to follow suit. But if the country’s most respected newspaper can’t convince readers to pay, what chance will the others have?

Category: #506DE

Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.