A Dream Scenario For Bloggers: Financial Times Editor Says Most News Websites Will Charge Within A Year

From the Guardian:

The Financial Times editor, Lionel Barber, has predicted that “almost all” news organisations will be charging for online content within a year.

Barber said building online platforms that could charge readers on an article-by-article or subscription basis was one of the key challenges facing news organisations.

“How these online payment models work and how much revenue they can generate is still up in the air,” Barber said in a speech at a Media Standards Trust event at the British Academy last night.

“But I confidently predict that within the next 12 months, almost all news organisations will be charging for content.”

Barber is the latest leading executive to suggest the newspaper industry has to radically overhaul its existing business model.

Rupert Murdoch said in May that he expected his News Corporation newspaper websites to start charging for access within a year. The News Corp chairman and chief executive said free newspaper websites were a “flawed” business model.

Murdoch’s rival, the New York Times, could begin charging for online news within the next three to four weeks.

Let’s say this actually comes to pass. Here’s how it would go: as each news source puts its content behind a subscription wall, its traffic and advertising revenue would dramatically decrease as its readers go elsewhere.

Eventually, if newspapers keep going behind the subscription wall, you’d end up with a few giant papers and of course, lots of blogs, that would have their traffic explode. Meanwhile, many of the papers behind the walls would go out of business even faster because their readership on the net would fall off a cliff.

Why would it drop? Because most papers provide a very minimal amount of unique, interesting content. The foreign policy, domestic, & national sports news is roughly similar in every paper. Additionally, as a general rule, there’s not a newspaper in America that has columnists that can go toe-to-toe with the writers you can find for free on the web. So, that means all they really have to offer are classifieds that are being undercut by Craigslist and the same local news that people can catch on TV every night for free.

Put another way, unless you’re offering a relatively unique, very desirable service, like the financial advice in the Wall Street Journal, there’s very little reason for people to buy an online subscription.

So, throw up those subscription walls. It’ll help blogs and it’ll put liberal newspapers out of business faster. From my perspective, that’s a win/win situation.

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