We were once happy to pay for a printed newspaper, so what made us ditch them for our online news? Was it their cost, or the convenience of being able to access it from our own PC? And are we now prepared to pay once again for our news content, or will having to log-in make it inconvenient?
These are the questions many people ask as The Times introduce a fee to its website readers. We all know that printed newspaper sales have declined, with figures showing a gradual annual decrease since 1995. The privatisation of the Internet could be to blame, with the number of computers with Internet access exploding, “from 3.8 million in late 1994 to 12.8 million in mid 1996”. So is inducing a subscription fee for these Online readers (who were once able to access the same online news for free) the way to go, for newspapers to regain revenue? Or will readers look for other free sources such as the BBC, or Social Media?
Would you pay?
The Financial Times have been able to implement fee’s successfully, but they offer unique content with a specialised target audience who are willing to pay. If The Times offered something new or exclusive, I might consider it, but I wouldn’t agree with paying over £100 a year for the same news stories which I can access elsewhere for free. Newspapers also have to understand that online, people don’t buy into the newspaper name as much as they did with print, but instead, it’s the content.
Are they planning to fail?
“claim that the BBC’s free and comprehensive web service for news and sport causes severe distortions in the “market” and prevents commercial competitors from making a living”.
So is it unfair that the BBC can get away with not charging for their news pages, because they are covered by our TV Licensing fees? Possibly. However, news sites such as The Times, are able to generate money from advertising, which the BBC are unable to do. The problem is down to the number of sites entering the news market, as advertising revenues are being stretched further.
Is this the right solution?
It is clear that people’s reading habits have changed considerably, and time has become even more valuable. So with people skimming the headlines and only picking out a couple of articles, I don’t believe that many readers will be able to justify paying a subscription fee. And despite the pay wall, with so many twitterer’s and bloggers, news travels fast and can be accessed easily for free, so people may look for other sources before deciding to pay. Readers may also be put off by having to log-in to an account and being limited to news from only one site (unless you pay for more than one subscription).
What can they do?
The main problem is time. If I was provided with something different, which could help me get my news quickly, without having to sort through pages of articles, I might be interested. Taking a look at Twitter, although I can get news easily, not everything is of interest to me. Papers could create a personalised interactive newspaper, which gets sent to your inbox at a specific time (so news is fresh), and containing excerpts of only the news categories or search terms which I had pre-selected. It would also be great if it could cleverly pick out news it thinks I might be interested in, based on the information provided in my profile. It could even link up to my Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn accounts to find out more about me (such as my local area, level of education and work place), so results are more accurate. I would like to be able to personalise its look and layout and have Social Media available, such as share buttons and reactions/comments. News should also become more modern, with colour, videos and depth (allowing you to go deeper into an article). If this was all available, I might consider paying…
What are your thoughts on The Times’ subscription fee?