Some print media do digital well. Some don’t. But even those that do it well have always struggled to make money from digital. How does a news source like the Guardian (and here we’ll be looking at news sources) make money, when on the internet, ‘information wants to be free’?
I believe that the culture of the free internet is changing. There is so much information out there, that consumers are now willing to pay small amounts of money for quality content. There appear to be at least four main ways to make money from your digital content. But firstly, let’s examine why news sources need to make money from their digital content, whilst they continue to sell papers…
Digital news provides extra content. You have the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free‘ section, which despite its title, costs money to run. You also have all the extra bloggers, who must be paid. Also, having all your articles available online for free might prevent consumers from buying the paper copy. Personally, I read all my news online, and only buy the paper copy of the Guardian when travelling (and only then when I can’t use my iPhone – such as on airplanes and in that 3G ‘dead-zone’ between Stevenage and Peterborough).
The first way to make money is to continue along in the same vein, namely to keep content free but charge for advertising on the site. It’s debatable whether this is effective, both for the news source and the advertiser.
The second way is to follow The Times example and operate a paywall. The question is, as a stand-alone act, will this benefit The Times or work against it? Will people agree to pay for The Times’ content, or switch to a free alternative, such as The Telegraph? As BBC Breakfast said, is it not like operating a tollbooth in the middle of the ocean?
The third method is to use micropayments, where you pay for each article you read. Personally, I’m not sure how effective this could be, as picking which news articles I want to read each morning would prove annoying, and I would probably opt to not read anything at all.
Finally (and once again it’s the Guardian), we have applications. The Guardian iPhone app costs £2.39, but that’s a one-off payment. You can then access all the Guardian’s content daily, and even choose to download sections for browsing offline when you’re on the Tube (or north of Watford). Personally, this is my preferred approach, and one that I would like to see take off with other news sources.
How do you think traditional news media can make money from digital? Is there an approach that I have missed? Would you be willing to make micropayments for particular articles? And if so, which articles?