Please Newspapers, charge for online content!

Filed as General on March 30, 2005 11:22 am

by Duncan

Duncan Riley> One of the most spectacular examples of why the old guard of the mainstream media just don’t get blogging, and to some extent, the entire internet, has been provided by Gordon Crovitz, president of electronic publishing at Dow Jones who has said that more U.S. publishers were likely will try to wean readers off free Internet versions of their newspapers by starting to charge online subscription fees.

I say “bring it on”

Why, well it’s simple: it will drive more users to blogs.

Crovitz tells Reuters that by offering free internet services “Publishers in all mediums have tended to devalue their brands”. He also argues that charging for news that appears in print and then giving it away over the Web is “an unsustainable business model”.

In stating his bizarre beliefs, Crovitz seemingly ignores, or perhaps just does not understand that online advertising and e-commerce is now a multi-billion dollar part of the US and world economy and that online advertising is, even according to the same Reuters article, growing at a faster rate than print advertising. Perhaps his conclusions are being driven by the continued downward slide of print readership over the past 20 years, and he concludes that the only way to save print is to withdraw free content from the web? If this is the case then he ignores blogging at his own peril.

Whereas world media contracted in size during the 1980’s and 90’s, the internet, and more recently blogging has arrested the trend by offering an unprecedented diversity of opinion and press that continues to expand on a daily basis. Whilst some dodgy polls by pro-mainstream media organisations such as Gallop prophesise that blogs are not read by many, the sheer number being created would suggest that readership continues to grow, and despite some concerns, even from myself in the past, that the rapid rate of blog growth must eventually slow or even halt, there is absolutely no sign of this at all at the moment, indeed growth continues to accelerate. Blogging is literally becoming the long tail of media that will eventually own most of the content, whilst big media, with a relatively narrow number of views, further concentrated in ownership, will continue to sit at the top of the pile with a shrinking, but still proportionately bigger viewer and reader base than any of its individual blogging competitors. There will continue to be a market for big media, but any attempts to price its content away from its current market value, and over and above that of its competition (i.e. above free in terms of access) will only see more users exploring alternative news sources that provide a lower opportunity costs for the provision of news. Remember, news is to most people a want not a need, and wants that are satisfied at a lower opportunity cost, the ideal of course being free, will always win out in the long term to those products with a higher opportunity cost, with the notable exception being consumers who need news, as opposed to want it.

So if we presume that they don’t get it, I look forward to the extra traffic, and maybe I can change the motto to: “The Blog Herald, blog news with a lower opportunity cost!”

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