Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Cash for news

Our corporate Yammer channel is abuzz with amusing discussions about whether or not it would be possible to charge people to read our news content.

Some people are quite excited because if Mr Murdoch thinks he can (and Rob Grimshaw at the FT is bullish about it too) then that should be good enough for us.

Interestingly most of the debates seem to polarise the question between two business models: advertising vs pay-to-view/subscriptions.

But newspapers, magazines and websites are more complicated than that and so is life:

  • When I buy my newspaper to read on the train in the morning, am I paying for news? Well, yes, partly.
  • If it stopped containing the news would I still buy it? Probably not.
  • If it only contained the news would I still buy it? Probably not.
But news is very much part of my paper's brand (it's not a red top, obviously).

The polarisation of the arguments is misleading too. I might not pay for online news but I might pay for something else from the place I get my online news. Telegraph readers stump up to play Fantasy Football and do the crossword, for example. Sun readers pay to play bingo.

Generally speaking business magazine revenues have been in decline for years but other revenue areas - face-to-face (conferences, exhibitions and events) have been a growth area for many. So too have paid-for non-news services and in some cases, news brands have to some degree become a cross between a marketing medium and the badge of trust for these other services.

If you took the murderously expensive news content out of the magazines , how powerful a brand would you have left? I don't know.

1 comment:

Amanda Afiya said...

There's no straightforward answer. I agonise over this one, but for our site I don't think we could charge for news because there are far too many other websites out there chasing after the same or similar content, particularly the content surrounding high-profile chefs. But I can see that for other sites in the company where there's an incredible resource the potential is there. Whatever happens, we need to explore ways of monetising what we do PDQ.