Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Reversal of fortune

Watched an interesting story on the future of newspapers on the ABC's 7.30 Report.

One of the key points made in the show was charging for online news.

This is an interesting idea I think.

Several major newspapers used to charge for so called premium content on their websites.

Slowly but surely most of this premium content has become free to view simply because people are used to getting online news for free.

So how can a news publisher turn this equation on its head and start charging again?

Free newspapers.

Yes you read that correctly. Free newspapers.

Here in Melbourne each and every day commuters enjoy a free copy of MX on their train ride home. This paper is published by News Ltd.

Imagine if News Ltd's morning newspaper the Herald Sun was also given away.

It would give the publisher enormous reach and readership. Not for its news stories - for its advertising.

Now imagine if a large majority of the stories carried by these papers had expanded content including video footage available online.

I'm sure people would be interested in paying for this.

Maybe not just yet. But how about 10 years from now, when many smaller publishers have gone bankrupt?

The 7.30 Report story said that Australia's oldest and best broadsheets are in danger of disappearing.

So the prospect of this happening is surely a reality.

And when it happens you can bet News Ltd will be more than happy to give former readers of The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald free papers in exchange for subscription based premium content online.

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