It wasn’t too long ago that Rupert Murdoch wanted to free up content on the WSJ, but now he says, “People reading news for free on the Web, that’s got to change.” The NY Times reports on cash-strapped news organizations that want to find a way to make that happen. The problem is that the cat is out of the bag and people are used to paying to read news on the Internet and it’s hard to get people to pay. We saw that demonstrated with the Times Select bust.
The only model that I think could have potential would be if there were some sort of consortium allowing readers to subscribe to one service for a flat fee that gave them access to a lot of news sites. If the service achieves mass participation among newspapers and magazines, it will be harder for readers to simply say, “Oh, the NY Times started charging, so I’ll just read the Washington Post for free instead.” Also, a site that gave access to multiple outlets could convince readers that they’re getting good value. The participating news organizations could divide up the revenue proportionally, based on web traffic. The big question would be whether you could make the price high enough for it to still generate sufficient revenue for news organizations once the pot is split up, but still low enough to attract customers.
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