MediaNews, Hearst, McClatchy, the NY Times and News Corp. are in stages of mulling or implementing plans to charge consumers for access to their online newspaper content to varying degrees.
Do you think they’ll be able to get audiences to pay and if so, how will these plans affect online advertising revenues (think QuadrantOne, Yahoo NP consortium and other newspaper networks)? The NY Times originally dropped its TimesSelect paid offering because the company calculated that it could make more money with ads and increased traffic.
My belief is that some number of consumers will pay but that number will be relatively small. There’s also less inclination to pay so as long as the same or similar content is available elsewhere for free. Most news is now a commodity and so most readers don’t care where it comes from online. Columns and features are not a commodity.
I believe asking consumers to pay will mirror the historical pattern with newspaper online registration. Whenever I hit a newspaper registration screen, I click away.
I understand why newspapers are doing this because they believe they have few choices and are in crisis. But I don’t think the strategy will drive the kind of revenues they’re hoping for.
Of course execution is critical here. Well executed programs may have greater success than more crudely executed ones. What I mean by that is: careful thought about what to charge for and how to prompt users to pay. In my view, micro-payments won’t work here. There’s also going to have to be a “value add” (#wordkill) to justify the payments. To the extent I’m being asked to pay for what I was getting for free, I’m gone as a user.
Chart: MediaPost, data NAA