D&C Justifiably Looks at Charging for Content

In college, as I studied journalism and marketing and tried to get by on little to no money, I vehemently opposed news organizations that charged for content. I did this on the basis that most people will not want to pay to read information they could likely find from another medium or organization.

However, my opinion on this is beginning to shift as I am now working in the “real” world. As the person in charge of evaluating potential advertising opportunities for my small, local company, I tend to be hesitant to suggest advertising in printed publications. In my company’s industry, trust is of the utmost importance, and these days, people don’t trust advertising. Don’t get me wrong; advertising has its uses. It just seems to have different uses than it used to have, especially for small businesses that rely on quality service and word-of-mouth marketing.

I am sure I am not alone in this thinking. In fact, I am sure many other small business marketers have similar thoughts. Unless you have tons of money to throw at advertising, it probably will not be very useful. However, this affects the news organization’s bottom line in a negative way, as we have seen with many publications in recent years. But newspapers are getting smarter and realize that they must innovate or die, likely by implementing some sort of reader pay structure. One of the more recent newspapers looking to begin a pay structure is Gannett’s Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester. I recently read an article about their pay changes, which are slated to go into effect in May of this year.

In the article, they discuss a little bit of the history of business models for news organizations. For the most part, newspapers have been on the same business model for more than 150 years. That is a very long time to operate on the same business model, and it helps to show that perhaps it really is time for a change in the industry. Just think about the significant changes that have occurred in news organizations since then. The fundamental channels of communication — from print to internet — have changed drastically!

As a working professional, I now have a better understanding of the importance of bringing money in. If you do not make money, you won’t be around very long, and our world, no matter how transformed from even a few years ago, needs journalism. Just like any other business, a newspaper has expenses: It has employees to pay, utilities to keep up, and many other things to keep itself afloat, before even being able to make a profit.

The way the Democrat and Chronicle is going about the change sounds like the right way. They are informing people a couple months ahead of time, and then allowing people to view a few (exact number undetermined) articles per month, before asking for a fee to read all content. This seems like the best approach to me. You shouldn’t have to pay to read one or two articles a month. What if you’re from out of town and just happen to stumble on the article? However, if you use the organization’s content regularly, you should have to give something for it. After all, I’m positive each and every article they put together has plenty of work put into it – reading too much for free is like saying all of that hard work just wasn’t worth the fee.

While I have never subscribed to the printed Democrat and Chronicle (in my defense, I have been living in Rochester for less than a year), I do frequently read D&C articles online, and I would be open to paying for online content. Just because I prefer the internet to print doesn’t mean what I read is any less valuable!

What do you think of paying for online content? Is it justifiable?

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