In my earlier post, I made the suggestion that pay-for-content news was possible, even probable, but that I didn't know how it was likely to look. I wanted to separate that relatively educated opinion with a separate, relatively uneducated (about the news media), prediction about what the actual mechanism will be that will get people to pay for news content on-line. Here are my thoughts:
First, it won't be micro-payments. There are some ways that micro-payments work, but I think from a psychological point of view, you don't want people making the decision over and over each time they click on a story or newspaper site. Therefore, I predict some form of subscription service.
Second, it won't be "paying for content", which people will have trouble stomaching, but rather "paying for speed". Imagine if the New York Times were simply delayed two hours unless you had the subscription. All content would be available for searching and indexing and redistribution, but two hours later for those without the subscription. This would eliminate the issues the New York Times originally had with subscriptions and not being available for Google-indexing, but would provide an experience that would benefit users. In fact, it might not have to be two hours, perhaps one hour or even thirty minutes. Anything to make people feel like they were getting the scoop. It might also be that the videos would load faster, the pages would load faster, anything that would allow the premium customer to obtain a more desired experience.
People may remember the speaker at Lotusphere a couple of years back who described how Starbucks had made coffee-buying into more of an experience than a product, and thus were able to charge much more. Starbucks may be struggling at the moment, but the point is still valid. Pay-for-content news will probably only work when it is really pay-for-experience news, and when the price buys timeliness or speed or something that people value, rather than actual content.
The exact mechanics will be developed by somebody smarter than me, I imagine.
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