Paying for news?

In Tim McGuire’s Business & Future of Journalism class, there was a discussion about how much people are willing to pay for their news. The debating ranged everywhere; from full subscribers to micropayments, down to no payments at all. I suppose, for the record, I should say that I was definitely one of the ones who WOULDN’T pay.

Regardless, I ran across a blog covering this exact debate. Actually, the argument is geared toward the potential use of a micropayment system from an article previously written in Time. It states that people are increasingly reading online content and surprisingly, traditional journalism is more popular than ever. The problem is that it’s essentially being given away and subscriptions are at a low…what a shocker.

Walter Isaacson, the article’s author, recommends the use of micropayments [combined with advertising] as a way to prevent traditional journalism from completely crumbling. Even the author of the blog caved and eventually agreed with this. But I still don’t buy it.

I honestly cannot see how the implementation of a very small fee (be it per click/article/download/etc.) could save an entire industry. Maybe save is too big of a word. Well I still don’t see how it could further stimulate an entire industry and one that’s been around forever, mind you. I’m fully aware of the whole, “Why should I vote, it doesn’t even matter…” question that is often counter-argued with, “If EVERYONE said that, it would make a difference!” but I’m still not sold.

Why, during our country’s horrid economic status, would the majority of people pay a nickel here, a couple bucks there for an article? I emphasize the majority because I know that some people will pay for anything. And by some, I mean a lot. I just can’t see it being enough. Jobs are being lost left and right, while others have yet to even enter the working-world. Competition is extremely stiff, as it should be, and it’s not just stopping at who can get hired first.

The fact is, someone will present the news for free. It is inevitable. All it takes is for that someone to be holding true name, or brand, recognition and micropayments will become obsolete. Traditional journalism fuels online content, and I don’t think papers will die off [for awhile] but we rely so heavily on the digital transformation. It’s not a stretch to think someone will pay and make the content available via BitTorrent for others to access. That doesn’t even come close to a big name company presenting it for free and yet it covers thousands, even millions, of online users.

Yes, people will pay, but it’s probably the same amount of people who bought any MP3 player that wasn’t an iPod.

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7 Responses to Paying for news?

  1. cafuller says:

    You make a really good point. People will pay for news, but how many of those people do you and I know here at ASU? I have a feeling that the people paying are the people who grew up and have spent their entire adult lives walking outside to pick up that morning newspaper. Well, I don’t think I know one college kid who has the paper delivered to their house or apartment. In the last four years, the only printed newspapers I have actually picked up are the free ones I’ve found on campus, and the ones I’ve read while home visiting my parents.

  2. jejepson says:

    I agree with the point you are making in your post. Although the concent of micropayments works in the music industry, I do not think that it is a plausible solution for the problems of an entire industry. I think the future of journalism, and the media in general, is going to be heavily based around the internet. In order for journalism to survive in the years to come, they are going to have to work with the internet and integrate it into their business model, otherwise journalism and newspapers will become a dying art.

  3. tmpace says:

    Good post! I read the same blog and thought this idea was fascinating. A first I was like no way the members of our generation are going to pay for something they get for free, but I did agree with the author of the Valley PR blog I think I would pay like $2 a month for a subscription to the Arizona Republic, but I do not know if non-journalism students would do that. I think about my friends, who are intelligent, well informed individuals, but get their news from their homepage or the TV. There is no shame it that, and that is free. This issue of newspaper dying is not easy. The world is changing. News is now free.

  4. Len Gutman says:

    I wouldn’t say I caved…but as I started thinking about Isaacson’s concept I realized that there ARE some sites I’d be willing to pay for if there was no alternative. Until there is a better local news source than AZ Central I’d feel a need to pay for it.

    A good question to consider is why aren’t there online news sources to compete with AZ Central? Huffington Post and others have proven quality journalism will attract readers, and it has built a business based on advertising. If the republic stopped printing a newspaper and instead tried a pay site, I’d imagine a well done news site could compete for viewers and ad dollars. Of course, AZ Central would have a heck of a headstart.

  5. kbergeron44 says:

    This blog is interesting because it deeply impacts the future of our industry. I think that because we are journalism students and we are bludgeoned to death about the importance of journalism through our studies that we tend to have a higher value for news then the average person. The question is not how much WE are willing to pay for news, but how much the average person would pay for news. Because of how spoiled the consumer has been with free news at almost every turn I find it hard to imagine a scenario that would inspire them to pay anything for news, unless we can find something new to sell the consumer.

  6. mjcavaleri says:

    You have to realize the alternatives as well. I can get free local news without basic cable on channels like NBC, ABC, etc. and I see these remaining free in the foreseeable future.

    And ultimately, there will be a void in the market if there is no free news and void tend to be filled in a capitalistic society.

    I won’t pay for online news unless I absolutely must and even then I would probably be somewhat bitter about it.

  7. kmmorten says:

    I definitely see your point. In our generation, we have access to news at the click of a mouse. We get on our laptops and are swarmed with news from all different aspects. However, my parents, who are from a different generation, could be more likely to pay for news. And even then, I still think it is very unlikely for them to pay for news. Everything is going digital, and I think it is very important for news to be free so that we can be well informed about what is going on in our society. Sure, journalists are losing their jobs just like many other fields of work, but the need for news is still in demand. The internet is too huge to limit something like news, and thanks to the internet, word spreads like wildfire. Someone would find breaking news, post it to the internet, and millions of people access it. How could someone regulate such a thing?

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