My first guest expert is Jim Brady, who I had the pleasure of working for at the Washington Post.com. Currently, Mr. Brady is the Vice President & Treasurer at the Online News Association and his impressive resume includes working as the U.S. Consulting Editor at The Guardian, the Executive Editor & Vice President at Washington Post/Newsweek Interactive, and the Executive Director, Editorial Operations at AOL, just to name a few.
I asked Mr. Brady in an email to send me any thoughts he had concerning paying for online content and here's what he had to say:
"In short, paid models are doomed to failure, except in cases where you have unique content in a non-commoditized subject area, i.e, Bloomberg and, to some extent, the Wall Street Journal. But if you produce content that's available on other free sites, consumers will choose those sites 95 percent of the time, both because its free and its easier (no registration/credit card setup).
"Newspaper publishers like to say that people should pay for quality content. But you can't build a business model around "should," only "will." And there's no evidence that a vast majority of news consumers are willing to pay. And the next generation is even less used to it.
"Lastly, when you put your content behind a pay wall, you remove your content from the whole web ecosystem, where no one will find it via serendipity. You can't be surprised, when you put your content behind lock and key, that no one is able to reach it..."
My thoughts on Mr. Brady's comments:
It is my opinion that the biggest hurdle for newspapers who are contemplating the move of pay for online content is the fact that since the early 90s, consumers have been able to receive free content and now they are facing having to pay.
And who's to say that websites like the Drudge Report won't still be able to get their hands on content that requires payment.
Related news story of interest:
While the publishing industry waits for details of Apple's rumored newspaper subscription plan, some publications, including The Wall Street Journal, People magazine and the Financial Times, have been moving forward on their own.
The Columbus Dispatch launched its first iPad app last month, and it too circumvents Apple's iTunes store by integrating directly with the paper's existing subscriber database. The app is free to print subscribers as well as to those who receive the paper's eEdition desktop replica.
Current nonsubscribers can access the iPad app for $99 a year, $10.99 a month or $2.54 a week. The paper also plans to offer single-day access to the app edition, at the print cover price, in the near future.
I talked with the paper's vice president of digital, Phil Pikelny, about that approach and the paper's overall mobile strategy. In this edited e-mail interview, Pikelny describes what amounts to a "read-anywhere" strategy, in which he foresees a "newspaper" subscription providing the reader with access to content on multiple print and digital platforms.
For more on this story from Poynter Online, check out this link.
Coming up next week: Another expert's opinion on paying for clicks from online papers --this opinion made me think a lot about my stance on the subject (which will be revealed in the coming weeks).