Paying for online content – inevitable?

Posted on December 6, 2009

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I recently discovered that Paid Content UK is not where you go to pay for content.

Where you do go to pay for online content, however, is the The Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and a number of other specialist online sites. And, as of the end of November, anybody wishing to access online content from Johnston Press (covering the Worksop Guardian, Whitby Gazette, the Northumberland Gazette, the Ripley & Heanor News, the Southern Reporter and the Carrick Gazette) will have to pay £5 for a 3-month subscription.

Visit any of these sites and you’ll get a message like this:

Or like this:

Option one supports the theory that newspapers might be doing this in order to drive people back to reading the print version of a newspaper. Option two supports the more general idea that papers just feel it’s fair for their online content to be charged for.

At the moment, it seems to be less of a problem for magazines than for newspapers, and less of a problem for regional as for national. The only reason that the above papers might just get away with what they’re doing is because they’re local, and that puts them in the camp of “specialist” news. People just can’t get that information anywhere else, and, as Alan D. Mutter suggests, original, authoritative content is possibly the only thing people are willing to pay for. 

But national papers might struggle. As Rupert Murdoch continues his campaign against free news distribution and locks horns with Google on an almost daily basis (even calling data aggregation “theft”), it’s little wonder that other papers might start to wonder where it’s all going. What do they have that’s original? What do they have that’s authoritative? What do they have worth paying for?

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