Wednesday, June 16, 2010

News at the right price?

People have got used to getting their news on-line and free. The trends for printed news are pretty dire, in our world of immediacy even the daily paper is out of date by the time it arrives. The role of newspapers is more to make sure you haven’t missed anything and to put the news into context, plus of course the classic sections such as the film guides and sport which are designed for spreading over the bed and reading on a lazy Sunday morning whilst you sprinkle the sections with a light smattering of croissant crumbs.

On-line news access, whether it be the BBC Global news podcast twice a day or access to on-line news sites give people the news they are looking for, updated regularly, with an easy method to search. There is a trend for people to move to their hard copy trusted source onto the online version, whether that be The Economist or The Wall Street Journal, we trust the hard copy, now give it to us in a more rapidly updated and also more searchable format on the web.

But are we starting to see a change in getting online news access free. The decline in newspaper sales has hit these organisations hard, not just in sales but also in ad revenue as their circulations declined. Bringing websites on board was a way of increasing the readership and building the brand image so that the circulation would increase. In hindsight there is the potential to generate on-line advertising revenue and to better understand your readers reading habits but there is also the potential for cannibalisation of your core product.

Today marks the launch of the paid version of The Times online, The Wall Street Journal is already there, as is the Financial Times. For £1 or $1.50 you can get a day’s access, and £2 or $3 for a week’s access to The Times. There are really three ways this could go. Firstly it could remain a niche product, only aimed at a small demographic willing and able to pay for access. Alternatively with the arrival of the iPad will the online versions of the papers allow for extreme personalisation, the classic start with the sports at the back of the paper. If readers can access the news that is most relevant to them, as defined by their preferences and access it on the go, via an iPad for example, then this may provide enough value for people to pay for access. The final option is micropayments, do you really want access to all articles or just the ones on topics that interest you? Would you be prepared to pay a few pence or cents to access the article, I think most would say yes. The issue then is, how does one take payment and not make the process more costly than the revenue generated. Perhaps this is something that Paypal or iTunes should be looking at?

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