Thinking of charging for news online? Think again …

This site might make it tough to pull off …

Why pay to access News/Fairfax/whoever else when the national broadcaster has your back … and for free? The ABC site is as good as any other general news offering in this country and will never be a pay to play type scenario.

Rupert Murdoch is saying that News is looking at introducing charging for content across his assets potentially as early as mid 2010 –

Murdoch claims that the WSJ has pulled it off and this makes him optimistic that such an approach is viable – even across celebrity tabloid content.

Sure, maybe specialist news/information might be able to charge a premium – but do the people currently talking about paywalls/charging etc have the credible brands to pull this off … or would sites like Business Spectator, Smart Company, Mumbrella, ZDNet etc be in the prime position?

But with Entertainment and gossip there has to be doubts. This stuff is available right across the web and most celeb stories of not appear to be broken by hybrid blogs like TMZ (which broke Michael Richards, Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, the Hasselhoff drunk video and basically every Hollywood story over the past 4 years) and gain momentum through portal type sites.

Interesting times ahead!


6 responses to “Thinking of charging for news online? Think again …

  1. You can’t make the argument, Ben, that paid sites won’t work because there will be free alternatives. There are a number of paid news sites that compete successfully against free alternatives; just as pay-TV is a viable business competing with free TV, free newspapers verses those with a cover price, etc.

    Ultimately it is about content. And that is where this debate will end up – not about whether people will pay to access websites, but what content people will pay to read.

    I think the notion of making ‘breaking news’ free will never work. There are simply too many recorders – journalists and mobile phone-equipped citizens – moving too fast to really differentiate yourself as a source people will pay for.

    And really, we stopped buying newspapers for real news long ago. We buy them for the other stuff – the truly original reporting, the exclusives, the analysis, op-ed, features, reviews, columnists, the glossy magazines with fashion spreads and cooking recipes, etcetc. That’s what will work behind a pay wall. And it will challenge news organisations to produce the most original reporting they can.

    With any luck it will drive content originality and innovation like the ‘good old days’ of newspapers. Fingers and toes are crossed.

  2. Hey Ben. I agree – will always be around and the quality of news they produce will always be outstanding. Howevr, I think their website needs a lot of work. I used to be an avid ABC News Online fan – but with their most recent website I find it hard to get a good summary of news fast.

    In contrast, I find that on I can find out a lot quickly – without clicking. There is also something more engaging about the way presents its news – of course the kind of tabloid news they present may always be a little more attractive – but there is something about they way they’ve put that makes is better and easier to get the information that I’m after.

    Not sure what you think? But, something is missing on the ABC News Online site now. And, if does shit to pay – then, of course, I’ll end up spending more time with the ABC – but I don’t think I’ll like it…

  3. Hey Ben,

    Sweden is an interesting country to look at when it comes to online news content as they are miles ahead of Australia.

    Their biggest online newspaper, started charging for premium online content in 2003. But by then, they were by far the biggest website for online news in Sweden (they launched their website as early as 1994).

    They don’t charge for breaking news but instead information such as high profile interviews, lists of the best freeware on the web etc. They have a subscription service and you pay monthly to access the premium content. It has proven to be very successful.

    I think the Australian news sites need to really step up to have any chance of being successful with an online payment model. The content needs to be top notch for them to succeed. It will be interesting to follow this development.

    Thanks for a great site!

  4. Pingback: Pay For News? No Thanks. I’ll Make My Own. | Another Advertising Wanker

  5. Hi Ben,

    Firstly, I like your site. Congrats! I’m new to the whole blogging scene and your blog is the first that I have subscribed to.

    On the issue of charging for content, I’d imagine that online – where we have access to so many free substitutes from all over the world – that the content would have to be absolutely top notch. For mine it is not.

    I think it’s doomed to fail tbh.

  6. All they need is a good model to work with. For example they can limit free news article per user by 10 per month. And if user wants to read more then they pay.

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