Thursday, September 10, 2009

Paying for news on the web

'This is also why I always counter arguments for micropayments with a push for macropayments. There are in fact people willing to pay for news content. But they’re a smaller share of your audience than you might think, and they’re also willing to pay more than a nickel or a quarter. If you’re going to try a paid-content model, to me it makes a lot more sense to make sure you’re getting all the revenue you can out of those bigger fish than to waste energy chasing after the folks who will never pay anything.'

The future provision of news is a subject I'm increasingly interested in. Two of the old models, the very large news agency and the traditional paper newspaper, are in perilous decline. For consumers of news like me, that is disturbing.

The crucial facts are that without a steady and voluminous supply of revenue, you can't get decent journalists and pay them proper salaries. somebody, somewhere, must somehow do that, or the steady flow of information we currently luxuriate in will dry up.

From what I have read (admittedly not very much) so far, I would go along with Joshua Benton. Micropayments for individual articles would make a newspapers worth of stories cost as much as a decent hardback book- nobody in their right mind will pay that. And although he mentions no actual mechanism for macro payments, I have an idea.

My idea is for an online news marketplace. Users could subscribe at a number of levels- from daily newspaper level (very low cost) right up to researcher level (much higher cost). Content would be provided by everyone; the large newspaper organisations, tv stations, news agencies would all submit content to the marketplace. Branding on content would be retained. Content would be graded by those submitting it to determine how low down the food chain subscribers would be allowed access a particular piece of content.

The databasing for the marketplace system would need to be industrial strength, but it would allow the accounting for payments to be done outside the sight of users- to them it would be blissfully simple to pay and access. All documents in the marketplace would need to be locked down to prevent copy and pasting- indeed all the technologies available to prevent copyright breaches should be deployed. To some extent this would interfere with 'reasonable use' usage, but the concept of reasonable use is currently deeply abused anyway.

There would need to be a corporate subscription available, so that smaller regional and local news providers could reproduce marketplace content on their own websites at reasonable rates.

There would be huge resistance and attempts to bypass the system at first- pretty much nobody is going to want to have to start paying for something they currently get free. But then again, many journalists are currently working who get very little reward for the hard work they do. That has to change. Rupert Murdoch is right. Good journalism costs money.

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