Andrew Ducker (andrewducker) wrote,
Andrew Ducker

Solving the newspapers' money problem.

Reading this story about the New Yorker changing its online strategy is puzzling for me.

Because, once again, they're going for a variant of "We'll give you some stuff for free, and then when you're hooked, charge you for full access."

And that's a strategy that seems completely mired in the past. It assumes that a reasonable response to "You've read 9 articles in the last month, so the 10th requires you to sign up/hand over cash." is to do so - because clearly if you read ten articles on the New Yorker you're a budding New Yorker reader, ready to pledge your allegiance and wear the t-shirt.

Whereas my reaction to hitting a paywall is to sigh, and go check who else has the same story. Because I wasn't convinced that _that_ article was going to be great, I just wanted to read about the particular news event, and so long as I'm reading somewhere vaguely reputable* I don't really care who it is that's telling me what happened.

So the time to drop the paywall in front of me is not when I arrive at your site for the first time - it's a quarter of the way through every article. Once I've had a chance to get into it and decide that it's worth reading the rest of it.

And then (and this is the important bit) you have to make it _really_ easy for me to pay you. Not with a micropayment system that's specific to your site - because frankly I've never read the Minnesota Examiner before, and am not likely to again, so I'm not wasting three minutes on the sign-up dance. But with a system that covers hundreds of newspapers, if not thousands of them.**

I want something that essentially asks "Are you a subscriber to the gold-plated read-any-newspaper-you-like system?" - and if so lets you in to read as you like, collects a bunch of stats centrally, and then divides up my $50/month based on what I read where. Or tells me that this article is 5 cents and lets me click ok to carry on, again using a centralised system shared between hundreds of newspapers that I only have to sign up to once.

Because I don't mind paying for news, but I'm not a reader of any single newspaper- I'm a reader of _the media_. And so, frankly, are most online paper readers nowadays. The days of following a single paper of record are, if not dead, then on the way out swiftly***. And if you want to make money off of me directly (rather than through advertising to those people that don't use AdBlock) then that's something the newspapers need to take into account.

So once I'm signed into AllMyNewspapers.Com I never want to see another advert or paywall ever again. If they don't make it that easy, I really can't see it working****.

*By which I mean that they only lie 5% of the time, and I know where their biases are. :->
**I know I'm suggesting a massively centralised system here. I'd rather there were multiple competing ones here, but I suspect that "paying for content" is something that's going to swiftly become a monopoly.
***So far as I can tell the majority of people get their news through people linking to things on social networking sites,emailing them round, and other sharing methods. Some people, obviously, have to go to the site directly in the first place, but I strongly suspect that that's rapidly becoming a minority sport.
****Excepting specialist content. The Financial Times can get away with it. Or The Economist. Or even places like Ars Technica, which I pay for.

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