Paying for News Online: Bah

There’s been a lot of not-so-subtle mentions about news sites packing up the free content and starting some form of monetization scheme where they expect Internet users will cough up some dough.  This does not please me terribly much.

Assuming, for a second, that we don’t take into account the perceived quality, accuracy or value of what is reported today (or in the immediate past) or any assumptions about whether this would improve under a paid-for model (highly doubtful – consider Pay TV as an example), let’s examine the other considerations.

What we seem to lack here is a basic analysis of alternative ways consumers could access news and current affairs.

The Internet is but a single piece in a larger pie, and if people don’t read about news online they have a plethora of alternatives (with varying degrees of accessibility and timing of course): pay-tv/cable news, free-to-air TV (including Teletext), AM or FM radio, public announcements, eye witness accounts, word-of-mouth, social media sites, public libraries (where the newspapers are free to read) and newspaper (print). 

With the exception of pay-TV and newspaper/print (which presumably a consumer somewhere initially pays for) the rest of these sources are advertising subsidized, government funded (e.g. the ABC, SBS in Australia.. BBC in the UK) or free – at no [direct] cost to the eventual consumer.

Why should online news come with a cost to the consumer?

When you think about it, newspaper media with an online news site gets double advertising dollars for reporting the same news articles on two different mediums (print and online).  Surely it doesn’t cost them double to print the same stories on two different mediums?

Secondly, aren’t a great many major news items recycled/rebroadcast from other news agencies or news feeds (Reuters etc) – i.e. the cost of producing the content/news item is far less than employing a writer full time for stories from shared news sources.  No too mention that the shared feed is then further monetized by being printed (in a newspaper) or broadcast on TV (supported by ads again).

It sounds to me like big media is looking for an excuse to charge a little extra for something which shouldn’t inherently cost the Internet audience money, and I think it stinks.  Consider also that the Internet user has also had to (potentially or probably) pay for access to the Internet to begin with also..  That point seems to be lost on a lot of service providers these days.

What do you think?

Do you think the cost of reporting the news (especially online) has increased in a way which you think makes it fair and reasonable to charge Internet users?  Leave a comment…

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