Home > newspaper, paid online content, search engines > Attaching a Price-tag to Online Content

Attaching a Price-tag to Online Content

While researching for the website analysis earlier this semester, I stumbled across a few websites that asked me to pay for their content. I dismissed them and continued on with my search for free content. But it made me question, ‘Is there value in paid online content?’

With the likes of Rupert Murdoch, we may no longer have a choice. In May, he announced that News Corp would start charging for some newspaper titles over the next year. There are still loads of other news outlets, but what if they all follow suit in a bid to generate cash?

Surely, this isn’t what Berners-Lee had in mind when he envisioned the world wide web. He believed that the web would be a place where people would openly and productively share information, not charge for it.

There’s no doubt that newspaper ad sales and circulation have been plummeting with the British Financial Times looking to a click-per-view system of payments, comparable to the iTunes model. The New York Times too, is also looking to a charging system and tiered membership.

Yet, will their plans to change the liberated nature of the Internet eventuate? And if they do, will those who charge for content survive? With filtering systems like Google and the newly launched Bing, it remains easy to find unpaid content. In spite of that, there are still those who are willing to pay for niche publications and specialised information inaccessible elsewhere. The Wall Street Journal and ESPN have successfully created a paying market, but whether it would be as successful for the Herald Sun, for instance, remains to be seen.

According to a poll from Harris Interactive, three out four online news readers would switch to an alternative free source if their favourite news site began charging for access, and a mere 5% would continue to pay for their preferred news source if it started charging for content.

In Australia, however, a study from the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers reveals that people would pay for online news, sports, weather and finance. According to the report, people will pay for content if it saves them money, helps them make money, is specialised content or helps them use other products like software.

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