Currently we are privy to a large amount of speculation about the future of the newspaper industry. Some pundits (and editors) are suggesting the only way that print can survive in anything like its existing format is to start charging for online content. Advertising, they say, as a consistent form of revenue, is not enough. This perception would seem timely; News Corp just announced a 97 per cent slump in profits in its newspaper division.
Others feel that charging for what has, with one notable exception, always been free content would actually have the opposite effect for the industry, and likely expedite its demise. The Guardian is currently running a poll asking their readers if they would pay to read newspapers online (any newspapers – not just The Guardian). At the time of writing, a commanding 87.4% say they would not.
In September 2005, The New York Times premiered its TimesSelect subscription model for part of its online content. The service was priced at $7.95 per month, or $49.95 per annum (while being free to existing print subscribers and students), and was a resounding failure. People hated it. Others subscribed, took the content, and then made it freely available to all. So is the way of the internet. Two years later, the Times announced it would stop charging for access.
I have to admit, I side with the majority on this issue. Unless it is priced at an absolute pittance – and I mean literally pennies a day – paying for newspaper content as is is not something I can see myself doing. Others, it appears, would agree.