A PricewaterhouseCoopers survey, recently written about in the Australia newspaper, has supposedly found that readers may be willing to pay as much for online newspapers, as they do for print versions.
Sound-bites like this would be soothing balm for the owners of the many newspapers going under at the moment, with the possibility of revenue generation and content protection at the same time, but it just doesn’t seem realistic to me.
The study found that readers would be most likely to want to pay for business and sports news – and only in the case where there was no good quality free alternative.
This is a huge caveat – in how many cases would there not be a good quality free equivalent? In the competitive online world, where advertisers pay publishers depending on eyeballs, there is always going to be big incentives to provide quality content.
News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch announced at a briefing last week that his organisation will be charging for some of their online content within the next 12 months. He acknowledges that this is a risk, but said that to build a successful online model, things are going to need to be tried and tested. At the same time, he knows that overcharging for content will not be feasible.
A different idea, which I feel might have more possibility, is the introduction of an electronic device which could distribute their dedicated content – similar to Amazon’s Kindle. The issue with this, would be an extra device being needed, which could be inconvenient, so perhaps an iPhone type application would be better.
The other issue with this is that the habit of reading online (while at work for example), is very different from reading off a discrete device. I can imagine people doing it for business news, but not so much for sports news.
The PWC study found that there would be resistance against using electronic papers or mobile devices, and more support for paying for online content.