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Getting Paid For Content

Rupert Murdoch and this blog mentioned it last week–again. Contrary to conventional wisdom, Rupert says that while information may want to be free, quality content should be paid for. I’ll take it a step further–and say, consumers will pay for quality content. This is not a new concept. Consumers have been paying for newspapers and magazines for more than a century now and continue to do so (though admittedly in smaller numbers.) Ad-supported, broadcast radio and television spoiled the users (and even, for a time, broadcasters) and the media industry has tried to apply that model to the internet.

However, as with cable TV distribution, some producers of content have broken from modern tradition and asked users to pay toll. Notably, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have charged toll on line–and less notably, so have smaller sites like Zagat.com and vault.com (the parent company of Shoptalk.)

On a local level, there have been fewer examples of the pay-for-content, pay-for-access business model as newspapers and TV stations have tried primarily to replace shrinking ad revenue with on-line revenue–in the form of advertising dollars. But digital ad revenue has turned out to be nickels and dimes, not dollars, and as Mr. Murdoch has pointed out, quality content ain’t cheap to produce.

So as national entities like ESPN and msnbc.com try to move in on local markets–and as newspapers experiment with web efforts (see Ann Arbor and San Diego, among others)–local television stations are going to have re-double efforts to examine new twists to the old business model. Or die trying.

Erik Sorenson is chief executive officer of Vault.com, Inc. He oversees the strategic direction of the global, New York-based media company, including ShopTalk & TVSPY. If you would like to comment on Remote Control, or want to reach Erik, email remotecontrol@tvspy.

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