Yesterday, the Argus Leader announced that they will be moving toward a subscription model for their online content. Readers no longer will be able to visit ArgusLeader.com and expect to be able to read all the content for free. I didn't visit the website too often, but I'll miss the freedom to come and go as I please without being an online subscriber.
Rita McGrath at Harvard Business Review has written a blog post on why she hates micropayments. Micropayments are financial transactions involving very small sums of money (see Wikipedia). For online publishing, a small fee would allow you to view the content for a certain period of time or for a certain number of articles.
Personally, I'm not sold on the concept of micropayments for content which is probably why I was lured to Ms. McGrath's article in the first place.
The idea has been around a long time — at least since the mid-to-late 90s — with both supporters and detractors weighing in. Millions have been lost by companies seeking to capitalize on streams of micropayments, almost all of which eventually crashed and burned. Myself, when confronted with a request to chip in 99 cents for a one-time glimpse at an article or $2.99 for a week's worth (as some of my local newspapers are doing) — well, I close that window and go away.
The author of the article discusses further the importance for any payment system adopted to consider "how the payment link of customers' consumption chains fits into their total experience". Micropayment systems have a tall order in that they need to be seamless, transparent, and achieve inevitability. Even grimmer for publishers, it's not only the micropayment experience that needs to be improved but also the non-micropayment systems too.
For the past few years, I've paid a yearly subscription to the Wall Street Journal for the print publication and the online subscription. With my yearly renewal coming up very soon, I've decided to discontinue my online subscription to the WSJ. Why would I do that? There are some very basic reasons to why I'm dropping WSJ.com. I rarely find myself reading the online content of the WSJ. I either already read the stories in the print version of the WSJ or I have found myself already familiar with the news story because I read a similar story posted elsewhere online. Stopping by the WSJ.com, unlike CNN or FoxNews, never became a daily ritual for me.
There has been a lot of articles written lately on Rupert Murdoch's latest comments regarding the need to charge online readers for the content they access to the business model The Wall Street Journal utilizes. Murdoch recently announced that additional News Corp's newspapers would be charging users access to their online content.
Speaking on a conference call as News Corporation announced a 47 percent slide in quarterly profits to $755 million, Murdoch said the current free access business model favored by most content providers was flawed.
"We are now in the midst of an epochal debate over the value of content and it is clear to many newspapers that the current model is malfunctioning," the News Corp. Chairman and CEO said.
"We have been at the forefront of that debate and you can confidently presume that we are leading the way in finding a model that maximizes revenues in return for our shareholders... The current days of the Internet will soon be over."
That pay for content business model that Murdoch wishes to spread to the the rest of the News Corp holdings has worked pretty well for the WSJ. Yearly subscription to WSJ.com is around $100 and the business news site recently introduced a cheaper micro-payment system. Deane Barker recently pointed out this story on his Gadgetopia blog. Barker points out that this business model could possibly work for additional online news sources, but Murdoch needs "another big player on the bandwagon, and he might kick the snowball off the hill. Gannet? New York Times Company?". Barker's point is that for News Corp's subscription model to work, access to news content needs to be limited at other places online too. In my opinion, a fight against free online content is a war that has already been lost.
As a subscriber to the WSJ in both print and online content, I do see paid online subscriptions working for niche news sites. I however have serious doubts that the model can work for general news. People are willing to pay and only pay for content they can get nowhere else online. The news articles found in the WSJ is unique content and since its also content of value, I'm willing to pay for it. However, reporting general news is a much different game. Even if the majority of newspapers started charging access to their content it only takes one newspaper willing to offer that same story for free to break the pay for access model.
The Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism does a fantastic job reporting annually on the state of the American news media. The Pew Project's sixth edition for 2009 is no exception and provides lessons for all businesses on the importance of agility, adaptability, and competitiveness. The following paragraph from the report's introduction says it all.
Journalism, deluded by its profitability and fearful of technology, let others outside the industry steal chance after chance online. By 2008, the industry had finally begun to get serious. Now the global recession has made that harder.
This is the sixth edition of our annual report on the State of the News Media in the United States.
It is also the bleakest.
In Thursday morning's Wall Street Journal, Walt Mossberg did a review of the Asus Eee PC. The article, Asus Offers Travelers Small, Mobile Eee PC, but It’s Too Cramped, can be found in his column archive (a Wordpress site). I had been waiting for someone of his stature do a review on this product, but I was a little disappointed to see yet another review of a non-Apple device (this one is Linux based) be so negative.
MySiouxFalls.com is a new and local online news source for the city where I currently reside, Sioux Falls, South Dakota. At first, I was not all that excited about the site and had not plan on mentioning the MySiouxFalls.com site in my writing. We've all seen these sites before, right? In fact, I would say that many of the visitors to this blog likely have designed or participated in building sites similar to MySiouxFalls.com. That's not to say that there are not some things from a content management perspective worth mentioning.
I suppose it's expected, but the media's focus of a possible Daylight Savings Time (DST) computer meltdown is just too predictable. Take for instance this CNET News article, Daylight saving change proves thorny for businesses:
With the early move to daylight saving time taking place this weekend, businesses not yet ready for the change are finding themselves in a race against the clock.