News International have embarked on an interesting project: From June they will charge users to access The Times and Sunday Times websites a small fee to view content.
“Readers will be offered a week’s subscription for £2, or a day’s access for £1, to two new sites, www.thetimes.co.uk and www.sundaytimes.co.uk.
Rupert Murdoch has been saying for a long time that quality news and journalism should not be given away free. He’s right; journalist’s deserve to be paid for their work. What he’s wrong about is who should pay. Does he think that because people currently pay for newspapers that people should expect to pay for online news as well? It’s chalk and cheese. Two completely different products with differing user experiences and demands. When I view a story online I demand pictures, audio and / or video. I’m not interested in just a text article. This has the potential to be the premium offering the industry needs, but instead the industry thinks it needs to cover everything (in less detail) and reduce the amount of resources used on investigative journalism. The end product is neither premium nor what the user demands.
News has been undervalued for a long time; from hourly news on the radio to several dedicated 24 hour news channels consumers can access a variety of news sources for free and at their convenience. How many copies of Metro (a free paper) are handed out each morning? How many free online news sites already exist?
Print cannot compete with that. It’s yesterday’s news, but news papers can compete online. Here it’s a level playing field, except they have the advantage of old media behind them. They have resources, they have experienced journalists, they have sources, they have followers and still they want to charge for access! If I was in charge I would be supporting my news site through dedicated advertising (it can be done just look at internet TV). I would look to consolidate the industry – how many digital editions of the same news do we really need? I’d ask these question:
What is it that my news paper offers that would get users to pay?
Why would I the pay to access old news online?
The question News International should be asking is how we can generate revenue from our existing users? What additional services can we provide that users will pay for?
This saga will continue to run and I’m sure News International will sacrifice some of it’s best known titles as it hunts for the holy grail.
What do you think, will you pay to access The Times?