I’ve been aware of this for a while — there are people out there who believe that newspapers made a mistake by giving away content online. “Gee, if only we hadn’t done that, we would be better off today,” goes this bit of magical thinking.
Here’s the latest, via Romenesko:
“I am very concerned that many other publishers with high-quality news brands have devalued their brands by trying to charge in one medium (print) while giving away access to brands and content in another medium (online),” he says. “But I understand that itâ€™s very hard to change strategies.”
The Wall Street Journal can get away with charging for content online because it’s very specialized content, specialized to an audience that has either personal disposable income or corporate credit cards. Few other publishers can match that combo.
For the rest of us, we must deal with the reality of two perceptions by readers. One is that the price of a newspaper subscription is really to cover the cost of the service of delivery. They aren’t really paying for the content of the paper, but the pulp and delivery itself. And second is that on the web, the reader pays for deliver via paying for all his own equipment and net connection, while the practical cost of delivery for the publisher is near nil. Readers expect advertisers to actually pay for content creation, and if we can’t sell enough advertising, well that’s just our problem, not theirs.
We devalued quality content with the penny press, and low subscription fees for the past 100 plus years has only fueled the perception that content isn’t worth paying for. It isn’t just a web thing.