In 2010, they expect you to pay for news

The Wall Street Journal may be leading the way with the pay-for-content model of internet business, and that means it might not be long before all of Rupert Murdoch’s internet media is hidden behind a pay wall and limited to subscriber use only.  2010 is what he considers an optimistic goal.

But realistically, will the move away from free web content ever reach such a critical mass that my posts about online subscription models are anything more than general mockery and a synopsis of prior failed attempts?  Probably not, but its fun to be reminded how misguided some people with big budgets can be.

New York Times Learned Nothing

Guess who is back for round two?  Despite their initial failure with a subscription access model, the New York Times wants to try one more time to get people to pay for their newspaper’s online copy.  Well, they claim that they learned a lesson, but if that lesson was that people are willing to pay, why didn’t their TimesSelect premium portal shut down before even two years of being online?  Economically speaking, you don’t even shut down something that breaks even – you only shut it down when you’re losing money you can no longer afford to lose, and there’s no sign of improvement across the foreseeable horizon.

But maybe they did learn something – and maybe they can put the metered model of some free content together with the option for more in-depth and thorough access.  If there is anything people will pay for, its an upgrade to free content.  I know the freemium model of business has actually been pretty influential in my own video game buying decisions, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a news publisher who already has the clout of the NYT could use the concept to gain some net users.  Either way, they don’t want to give up their currently awesome web traffic, so they will probably let Google come index and cache the site.  Don’t tell anyone, but we’ll be able to get as many articles as we want each month anyway.  (Shhhh!)

Better Luck Next Time…

But for the most part, I don’t expect subscription content models to work very well when people are already spending upwards of a hundred dollars a month for their internet access.  People are pretty set in their ways when it comes to free online content, and regardless of who goes premium there will always be someone providing similar information at no cost.  Even if all the major newspapers go premium, I’ll still be here publishing for free, and I know I won’t be alone!

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