It seems the Telegraph is set to join the ranks of media companies which charge for their content. Is the era of free content on the Internet drawing to an end?
At this stage it is just a rumour. But talk is the Telegraph is not planning to go the Murdoch route of charging for everything. Rather, it will charge for some articles. The New York Times is planning a similar strategy, and of course the FT already takes this approach.
The problems for a media company in charging for content are obvious. For as long as some content of a sufficient standard is free, it seems unlikely people will pay for other content which is no better.
The Murdoch plan builds on the idea that their newspapers are so good that people would be willing to pay for their unique content.
You can understand the FT approach working, as some of their editorial really is special. But The Times? The News of the World?
One of the more interesting developments in content these days is that we have become our own editors.
There was a time when a newspaper editor chose the articles we would be interested in. In effect, a news publisher had a monopoly in that once we had bought a newspaper, all content in that paper was supplied by the journal in question.
It is not like that now. We can switch seamlessly from one article from a particular publisher to another publisher’s piece, maybe only dimly aware of the change of publication as we read on.
So, if you are interested in the latest cricket, you can read up a host of articles offering different opinions. In the pre-Internet days, we may have had to make do with just the one article which happened to be in our newspaper of choice.
But today we are inundated with information, which seems to fly at us from every direction. This may or may not be a good thing, but it is a fact of the modern world. And in business we need to be up to date.
It seems most of us acquire our information from a variety of sources. The Murdoch approach of charging for their newspapers is an enemy of the principle of multiple-source media that we have become used to. You can understand why News Corp wants to cede power back to their editors, but they are asking us all to swim against the tide.
We suspect that most content will always be free. But, equally, we may find a system will evolve in which it will become possible to buy packages of content. So, for example, for £10 a month you could receive, say, 100 articles from a variety of news sources. Maybe we will return to that approach when our ISP charges us a monthly fee, but in this new age it provides access to premium content within the fee.
The rumours suggest the Telegraph approach of charging for some articles may be compatible with a cross-media type package. The News Corp approach, however, probably isn’t. And as such, we suspect it is destined to fail.
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