Paid Content = Paid Wifi

Apologies for opening up the paid content can of crap again, but with the news the News Corp is planning to start charging for content in the next year, I got to thinking of the problem afresh.The problem comes down to this: will users pay for content that they can just wait for and get for free?

heads up: this is a pretty old post, it may be outdated.

I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve paid for WiFi access. Like most geeks, I pride myself on being able to find free internet access wherever I go. If I can’t find it, (like some airports) then web access nearly always goes into the “it can wait” column of my todo list.

Taking a step back, a service that I can find for free elsewhere is not one I’m likely to pay for, and I’m willing to sacrifice timeliness to save money.

This will be the a huge problem for newsorgs who want to go the paid content route.

Actually, the phrase Paid Content _is flawed._ It presumes that you’re paying for a _product_. Paying customers of the WSJ, aren’t really paying for the content, they pay for access to that content. You aren’t buying a product, you’re buying a service.

Let’s call Paid Content what it really is: Paid Access.

Paid Access

Businesses can charge for a service because, a) the service is significantly faster than the competition, or b) customers can’t find the service anywhere else. Therefore, newsorgs need to match one of these two criteria to be successful in charging for access online.

Speed The number of people who really need to have information, right now, has to be a very small percentage of those who read news.The vast majority of the populace can wait to get newsorg content on another news site, or read a summary of your story on an aggregator, or hear about it later via word of mouth.

The only content I can think of, for which people would be willing to pay, is timely access to Financial, Sports, and location-aware mobile content. The majority of the information newsorgs provide (yes, including investigative journ), goes into the “it can wait until it’s free” category.

A sidenote: one danger of a paywall is that most small stories won’t make it out from behind the paywall. Their individual value just isn’t enough for people to share them, or other newsorgs to cover them. How does this lack of eye-balls benefit of the Fourth Estate?

Uniqueness It’s safe to assume that the majority of your content can/will be found elsewhere online. Thank the link economy and information wanting to be free. Therefore, people can find your service elsewhere, they don’t need to pay for a subscription. “It can wait.”

Go ahead, charge

Newsorgs that adopt the paid access model are going to have as much luck charging for access to content as Boingo has charging for wifi.

Oh sure, they’ll make some money, but largely people will move on to some small coffee shop where they can get the same service for free.