Bloggers may howl, but cash for content makes senseLet me see...
WHAT is it about news in the 21st century that makes people so vehemently opposed to paying for it? After all, we pay for everything else -- the water we drink, the electricity we use, the phone calls we make, the music we choose, fuel for our cars or tickets to ride on our trains. We even pay for "free" things, such as healthcare.
The instant Rupert Murdoch last week confirmed his plan to introduce charges for News Corporation websites around the world (including The Australian), the blogosphere lit up with condemnation.
I'd say 99 per cent of the reaction was negative, ranging from the adamant "I will not pay, full stop", to the slightly more wistful "Bye-bye News".
On the face of it, any sensible marketer would fold the tent and move on. But I don't believe what the bloggers say, and here's why.
First, people who respond to blogs or website polls do not represent all people and cannot be described as a reliable cross-section of society.
When I used to buy the newspaper (recently I had the paper delivered on Saturdays only, however that ceased as it wasn't worth the newsagent's time and money to deliver), I purchased The Weekend Australian and the local Saturday paper for the paper's real estate "magazine". With the Weekend Australian the only parts I really had time to read were the first half of the paper (the News), the opinion and letters pages and the Weekend Australian magazine. It wouldn't be worth my while to subscribe for that.
If I'm paying for news I'd rather pay for a dead tree edition so that I can sit and read them while sipping my morning cuppa.
Subscriptionblogs? The whole concept of the blog was that it was a way to share information, for entertainment and to keep oneself amused. I first began to read a blog in about 2004 when Tim Blair hooked me with his blog, I used to subscribe to The Bulletin and found my way to his blog from there. The idea of the newspapers charging for blogs really defeats the purpose of them. Sure, there are plenty of people who will sling a few bucks here and there to blogs they frequent, however, these blogs are mostly run by individuals not conglomerates, and the money they raise supplements their blogcosts... and helps with equipment/software upgrades... or buys their beer for drunkblogging.
Paying for newspaper blogs? I don't know. Sometimes they are as dead as dodos, sometimes they are really not worth reading and that's no reflection on the blog byliner, there are slow news days, there are days when most interesting/witty/specialist/humourist/poetic contributors are MIA. However, a blog owned by an Australian conglomerate and operated within Australia means there are all kinds of limits which must be imposed due to the risk of litigation with Australian defamation laws and this will limit the interest in paying a fee to view and or comment on a blog, and this will limit the interest in subscribing to a blog.
There will be people who will subscribe, they will possibly be most numerous in those who will subscribe to a newspaper and be given the blog subscription bundled with the news subscription.
I was surprised to see some US readers of a blog say that they'd be happy to subscribe $US250-300 to read that blog.
This amused me, too:
Today, some people choose to buy newspapers and get a bundled service of all kinds of news (business, political, sport, lifestyle) plus comics, crosswords, cartoons, advertisements and directories to multiple services.
Others choose not to and are content to let radio and television provide, free of charge, all the news they want in their daily lives.
(Mind you, consumers eventually pay for the advertising that supports these free services through the price of products on supermarket shelves or their taxes.)