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In which hog fuel demonstrates that paid content has potential

Friday, May 1st, 2009

Here’s the best case against paid news content. It’s two sentences long:

We tried that. It didn’t work.

But there’s a powerful rebuttal to that case, one that grizzled online-news veterans (like my man Steve Yelvington, linked above) miss: The economics have changed since last time.

No, consumer desires haven’t changed since 1996. Sorry, Al, they wouldn’t pay for traditional newspaper content online then, and they won’t now. But local media incentives have changed since 1996.

The real question: whether those incentives have changed enough to force newspapers to make the crucial shift that could keep them alive — a shift to niche products.

If you want to understand how newspaper incentives have changed, you need to understand the following short story from the great Northwest.

It’s a story about hog fuel.

Click to continue »

Dept. of mythbusting: Money can indeed be exchanged for goods and services

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Is an iTunes for news possible? The cool kids all say no.

They’re wrong.

A year ago — three months ago! — I would have been the last person to make a case for paid content. But I’ve been coming around, and not for the reasons you think.

It’s not because I think newspapers can ever turn back the clock or put the news genie back in the bottle. They can’t. From now on, most content will always cost $0.00.

But not all content will be free, because money is not the only cost consumers must pay to read content. Gathering information — even free information — requires time, effort and knowledge: time to find it, effort to determine whether content is reliable, and knowledge of what content does or doesn’t exist.

If a product can save its readers enough time, effort or knowledge, they’ll pay money for it.

This isn’t to say that newspaper Web sites in their current form can save people enough time, effort or knowledge to be worth money.

My point is: the problem here isn’t the price.

It’s the product.

(photo courtesy Flickr user Roby72)