Sunday, 28 June 2009

Charge for online content - kill the online audience


So here it is again, raising its ugly head - 'newspaper' companies scrabbling around looking at ways of generating revenue by charging for content.

Charging for online content is an old fashioned business model which is the last resort of old fashioned businesses.

It's not how the web works or how readers use the web.

The latest last gasp of desperation of the innovativeless business leaders was sparked by Rupert Murdoch who recently suggested that his monopoly of media businesses would look into developing a model for charging users subscriptions.

When Rupert speaks, the world listens.

The newspaper industry has been slow to evolve with the rapid pace of new media. The charging for online content policy is the fall back position for an industry which has leaders who are failing to innovate. And that is to the detriment of the sustained future of journalism and online news.

It is a crisis. How do you make money from online content?

But it isn't a crisis which the newspaper industry has faced alone. The music industry has been there and done that.

The music industry has faced the online revolution in clear stages. Initially there was denial, then there was panic as sales and revenue nose dived, then there was innovation and experimentation (including ye olde fall back - charging for content) and now there's the first sign of a solution - Spotify.

The problem with making money online (or not) doesn't lie with the content producers - the journalists. It lies with the money men. The ad staff have failed to take the web by the horns. And as a result news companies are now desperately looking at ways of countering falling revenues, partly due to the recession, but mainly because of a failure to fully capitalise on opportunities digital has offered mainstream media companies.

For too long they were allowed to bury their heads in the sand.

So now back to the trusted fallback.

To make online charging work, whether that be via subscription, or pay per click (however much that may be) news companies will need to produce content which isn't being served by the world's media, or the world's bloggers. And if you can find a niche willing to pay, it won't be your niche for long, as the BBC or the legions of bloggers will come charging (or rather not) over the hill.

But to end at the beginning: Charge for content - kill off your audience. Where's the revenue in that?

1 comment:

CT Moore said...

"The ad staff have failed to take the web by the horns."

I couldn't agree with you more, Matthew. But I assume you've met a stereotypical print/display adman? They are so confounded by online media, that it's like blaming a shitsu for not deterring a burglar.

Maybe people at the publisher or editorial level should've started talking to digital ad-media guys sooner.