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Micropayments For News — Holy Grail Or Delusion?

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the content-is-information-you-don't-need dept.

The Almighty Buck 234

newscloud writes "Harvard's Nieman Journalism Lab sounds off on micropayments for news content, on the side of the argument that says they are a dangerous delusion: 'What does it mean for journalism? It could mean charging for different platforms, for early alerts, for special members-only access to certain premium or value-added content. But I'm pretty sure of one thing: It doesn't mean charging people fractions of a cent to read a news story, no matter how sophisticated the process.' The article provides good context on the debate over micropayments from a 2003 piece by Clay Shirky, to recent analysis and opinion by Masnick, Outing, Graham, and Reifman. Google's micropayment plans were recently discussed here."

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Premium content (5, Insightful)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502343)

If the content is premium content, something that I know is more valuable or interesting than elsewhere, then I have no problem paying for it. This is the reason people for pay for Wall Street Journal and the likes too - they get more out of it and the writers are specialized in the area.

For everyday news, no. I want opinions and better writing than just simply telling the news.

Re:Premium content (5, Interesting)

slashqwerty (1099091) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502455)

If they don't accept anonymous payments I won't pay for the content regardless of how good it is. The technology for anonymous electronic cash has been around for more than a decade. If a vendor wants my money they had better respect my privacy.

Re:Premium content (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29502521)

The fun thing is that this is mainly a US problem. For example in Russia the most used payment method is WebMoney [wmtransfer.com] , where you define exactly what information is public about your account and *by default* everything is private. All the information other party sees is the "purse number" of yours, ie. Z435903486439 or similar.

And you can pay for pretty much every service with it, from buying credit to your mobile phone to doing online purchases. You can also get credit card that is linked to your account. And the system is a lot more secure than PayPal too, with possibility to use keyfiles and sms verification for transactions along others. And theres none of such cases where PayPal just decides to lock out the user account. It is actually your account.

Sometimes its funny how much US is lacking behind on some things.

Re:Premium content (0, Troll)

MadnessASAP (1052274) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502811)

Sometimes its not funny at all how much US is lacking behind on everything.

Fixed that for you.

Re:Premium content (0, Troll)

multisync (218450) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503327)

If you're going to presume to "fix" someone's post, at least make the effort to get your html right. Your post is the one that's broken.

Time to retire this boring meme

Re:Premium content (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503509)

"The fun thing is that this is mainly a US problem. For example in Russia the most used payment method is WebMoney, where you define exactly what information is public about your account and *by default* everything is private. All the information other party sees is the "purse number" of yours, ie. Z435903486439 or similar."

That's privacy, NOT anonymity. WebMoney still has your data, and they promise not to let it out into the wild. But data breach or court order or "Oh, we changed our minds" exposes your data.

The GP was talking about anonymous transactions, where the intermediary doesn't have that information in the first place. Electronic cash.

There's a huge difference.

Experience goods (4, Insightful)

sjbe (173966) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502481)

If the content is premium content, something that I know is more valuable or interesting than elsewhere, then I have no problem paying for it.

The problem with that argument when applied to newspapers is that news is an experiential good [wikipedia.org] and by definition you cannot possibly know if it "is more valuable or interesting than elsewhere" until after you have the information. So you have to pay for it and hope that it turns out to be valuable. You can rely on the reputation or reliability of the source, but that still doesn't tell you in advance that the information is good. Even if others tell you it is valuable, you might not find it to be so - think of a movie that all your friends like but you don't.

Re:Experience goods (2, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502665)

Nonsense. You get to "experience" a periodical in every issue. Every issue
is an opportunity for that periodical to prove itself. Even if the content
is only available in hard copy you can still easily browse it and all of
it's immediate competitors (library, bookstore).

The character of The Journal doesn't change from one day to the next.

Neither does Fox News.

Re:Premium content (2, Insightful)

noundi (1044080) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502523)

If the content is premium content, something that I know is more valuable or interesting than elsewhere, then I have no problem paying for it. This is the reason people for pay for Wall Street Journal and the likes too - they get more out of it and the writers are specialized in the area.

For everyday news, no. I want opinions and better writing than just simply telling the news.

On the contrary, I want news -- instead of this ridiculous sensationalism. And I don't want it filtered through anybody in terms of opinions. If Jimmy, 5, falls down the well I want the news to report: 5-year-old Jimmy falls down the well, and not: WELLS SLAYING OUR CHILDREN, GOVERNMENT IGNORING.

Re:Premium content (3, Insightful)

slim (1652) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502623)

On the contrary, I want news -- instead of this ridiculous sensationalism. And I don't want it filtered through anybody in terms of opinions.

In which case you want a Reuters feed, or similar.

Analysis, opinion, these are value-adds. Many people *don't* just want to know what's happened. They want to know what other people think about it - people who are paid to be knowledgable, or merely entertainingly opinionated or outrageous.

Ridiculous sensationalism isn't to my taste -- but lots of people seem prepared to pay for it.

Re:Premium content (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502927)

It doesn't necessarily have to be ridiculous sensationalism however. Lots of people read slashdot for the comments, ie. what other people think, what more information they can give to the subject or make funny jokes.

There are also news sites that tend to give more information about the subject, or actually add valid opinions and analysis to it. If its quality, I can easily pay for it. I wouldn't however pay for sensationalism, I keep away from such sites already.

Re:Premium content (2, Insightful)

bickerdyke (670000) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503141)

Analysis, opinion, these are value-adds.

as is filtering itself. I bet even the GP wants his news filtered from every bag of rice that tipped over in china, or the results of some back-country bake-off. (Which might be really important news over there, but not over here.) But not every news from over there is unimportant over here. So you as everyone wants your news filtered. By someone who is likely to share the same important/unimportant threshold as you.

Re:Premium content (5, Insightful)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502787)

If it's truly premium content, then I can see justifying paying for it.

However, the real problem is that most newspapers think that their editorial content is almost as good as the WSJ and the like. But the sad truth is that it's nowhere near that. It's not indepth, it's not researched, it's not thorough, hell, it's not usually spell checked. And every newsroom I've ever been in believes they have great content. In spite of the fact that most stories are PR pieces or written by someone else who emailed it to the features, sports or news desk.

And yet the newspapers think that they'll make more money by putting this crap behind a pay wall. In reality, they'll just get fewer hits on their website, and thus ads, and will end up lowering their revenue way more than what they charge for access to their 'premium' content.

If they wanted to actually increase revenue, there's a simple solution.
1. Create compelling content
2. Charge a premium for ads around that compelling content.

Compelling content = more readership which means more ad impressions which means more ad revenue. Yes, compelling content is hard. But it's the only way for newspapers to make it in the future.

Yet every paper sees it as giving content away for free. And they're all idiots. They provide a real service - information. They just need to figure out how & who to charge to optimize their bottom line. Because advertisers, especially local ones that are impacted by that compelling content, are willing to pay for good quality ad hits.

Re:Premium content (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503171)

It's not in depth, it's not researched, it's not thorough, hell, it's not usually spell checked.

I don't want it spell checked, I want it proofread. Spell checkers don't work; the best thay can do is catch a typoo.

Re:Premium content (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502837)

I don't even have a problem paying by the story if the charge is 1 or 2 cents. But as clueless as most newspapers and old media are, I suspect they'll do something monumentally stupid like trying to charge big subscription fees ("All you can eat for $100 a year!")or trying to charge $1 or more per story. They won't get the lesson that iTunes taught to the old media in music (that the old $15-a-CD model is dead but that people will still pay a REASONABLE amount to buy a song). They need a shift in thinking.

Re:Premium content (1)

Zolodoco (1170019) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503259)

Does US commercial journalism or editorial writing have any integrity or value to the public? No, especially the editorial writing. I don't see any reason to throw money away.

Here's a crazy idea... (2, Insightful)

rodrigoandrade (713371) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502373)

I'll just get my news fix at free sites.

Re:Here's a crazy idea... (4, Interesting)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502547)

That's the thing, they think we want content. Well, we do, but we've never paid for content. I can read the local paper at McDonald's or any number of other places for free. I won't buy news, but I'll buy a newspaper once in a while, and it will get passed around the office for everyone else to read for free.

I guess that makes me a pirate in the eyes of "content providers".

That's the thing -- we've NEVER paid for content, we pay for its container, whether it be a book, a newspaper, an album, or a DVD. We were always free to tape friends' LPs and we were always free to record TV shows and movies on VHS (well, since the advent of the VCR anyway). We didn't buy music, we bought records. We didn't buy movies, we bought tapes. We didn't buy news, we bought newspapers.

Now that everything's digital they want us to pay two bucks for a song and you don't even get a 45, they want a buck for a newspaper and we don't even get the paper itself?

Listen up, young people -- don't let the greedy moneygrubbers steal your money buy letting them sell you something that has always been free. Bits are like air; they're free and always have been. If you want to sell air you have to wrap a scuba tank or a balloon around it. If you want to sell bits you likewise have to have a container, like a CD or an LP or a sheaf of paper.

These idiots think I'll buy something that's completely free from a myriad of sources. Must be some good shit they're smoking!

Re:Here's a crazy idea... (4, Insightful)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502655)

Eventually, some portion of what you are paying for the container goes to pay for the content. In the case of newspapers, it's actually a significant portion. A newspaper costs a few pennies to print, and even with delivery and markup, the bulk of the money the newspaper company is paid is for content, not the printing of hieroglyphs on thinly-pounded dead trees.

Also, digital distribution is far cheaper, but it isn't free.

I agree that digital music and other information sources are more expensive than they seemingly should be. But micropayments might help solve that problem. Headlines and a brief summary are either free or available on a really dirt cheap subscription (a dollar a month, say). If you want to read a full article, you pay a penny. Read an entire newspaper's worth of articles of interest to you, it'll cost you a quarter or so. Compare that to the 75 cents to a dollar that a newspaper costs today on paper, and that's probably a pretty accurate reflection of how much of your money today goes into content.

A lot of the free news sites are actually making money on ad revenues, and hopefully that will support decent journalism, but I know my local paper is laying off people (including reporters) left and right because they aren't being paid enough to reprint their news, and print subscriptions are down. Someone's gotta pay a reporter to go out and collect the news, and analyze it, and write it up. Someone's gotta be paid to fact-check, and spell-check, and digitize photos. Someon'e gotta get paid for decent layout (whether it be print or web). Someone's gotta get paid to maintain the web servers and the Internet connection.

Re:Here's a crazy idea... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503295)

Eventually, some portion of what you are paying for the container goes to pay for the content.

But that's irrelevant to the purchaser. The content is the carrot to get the purchaser to buy the container. It doesn't matter to the purchaser what the seller spends the money on. As a purchaser, I'm not buying news, I'm buying a newspaper.

Re:Here's a crazy idea... (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503727)

Sure, assuming you're buying a newspaper. But you're assuming that changing the container eliminates the cost of the content too.

The newspaper is the container, and the news is the content.

If you read an article online, the web page is the container and the news is still the content.

If you remove the container or switch to a cheaper one, there's still a cost to make the content, and the company that develops that content either makes money developing it or they stop developing it.

Of the cost of a $1 newspaper, at least 25 cents of that, if not more, is going into content (reporters, editors, office workers, computers and office space, cameras, electricity, etc). Some of it goes into printing and paper, some into distribution, and some into retail markup so stores will carry it.

Even if the container (newspaper) can be reprinted and distributed for free, there is a cost for the content that went into it. The news company wants to sell a certain number of copies of that content at their asking price. Remove the container and you've removed that portion of the cost. But there's still a cost of developing it which ends up dictating the price the content developer charges to recoup their costs and make a profit.

If they sell enough copies or more, then 3. Profit.

If they don't sell enough, they have one of four choices:

1. Tighten their subscription model so everyone who reads needs to pay - prevent copying through DRM of some type. Currently, this DRM is handled by the fact that you are buying an expensive-to-copy dead tree edition. Sure, you can share it, and a lot of people do, but there are still enough copies sold that profit ensues.

2. Lower the price in the hopes of selling more units to make up for it (which scales well since the container is practically free on this model, but assumes that more than 1,000,000 people will pay a penny instead of 100,000 paying ten cents each).

3. Raise the price hoping to extract more money from their loyal customer base (reverse the math in #2).

4. Lay off employees (including reporters) or hire less experienced reporters or outsource all reporting. In any of these cases, there's a good chance either the quantity or quality of generated news stories will be reduced.

Re:Here's a crazy idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29502675)

this "container" you speak of, I like to think about it as *bandwidth*. People are, and always have, paid for the bandwidth associated with getting content from its producers to its consumers. Not for the content, but for the bandwidth. Simple as that.

Re:Here's a crazy idea... (1)

slim (1652) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503241)

People are, and always have, paid for the bandwidth associated with getting content from its producers to its consumers. Not for the content, but for the bandwidth. Simple as that.

Simple, but not true.

The numbers in what follows probably aren't accurate, but the spirit is.

If I pay $2 for a newspaper at my local shop, and the newspaper gets another $1 from advertisers based on the expectation that I may glance at their ads, that's $3 in total being paid for the newspaper.

$1.00 goes to the shop, which will cover overheads such as heat and light for the shop, staff costs, distribution, as well as some profit for the shop.
$1.00 covers materials, printing, etc - manufacturing costs.

All of the above is "bandwidth" as you put it.

The remaining $1 *is* for the content. That stuff doesn't just pop into existence. People take payment for creating it, and that money comes from somewhere.

I repeat - the numbers could be wrong, but the spirit is right.

People have always paid for the combination of content and bandwidth.

Now that we pay separately for bandwidth - our ISP subs - we should expect our content to come cheaper, but not free. I don't think charging money directly for news content is practical. But as previously, is can be funded by ads, or by other models. At the end of the day, someone has to be spending money, and that money has to reach the journalists.

Re:Here's a crazy idea... (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502755)

So your argument basically is that you want something physical? That's a little bit hard with digital content.

Now instead of talking about not getting the physical paper, you could had said that instead of buying single news stories, you'd would rather buy a subscription to the paper. I would if the price was right, I wouldn't mind paying $1-5 dollars a month to some of the sites I have in my rss reader. This is even more true for news sites that are my work or hobby related, which I have special interest to. Frankly, lots of sites would be dropped too, and the first ones to go would be the generic every-day news sites.

However, I think the normal newspapers will stick around for long time still. Lots of people still like to read the actual newspaper. But it will probably go over time to more electronic format, even if you read it from the like of eBooks reader or so, when young people grow and older people that have got used to their habits go.

Re:Here's a crazy idea... (4, Insightful)

slim (1652) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502799)

That's the thing -- we've NEVER paid for content, we pay for its container, whether it be a book, a newspaper, an album, or a DVD.

I kind of sympathise with your angle, but it needs firming up. A blank notepad is cheaper than a novel or a newspaper. A DVD-R is cheaper than a DVD. So we *are* paying for content. ... and the content is far from being free to create.

Yet, to me at least, the content is less valuable without the packaging. A printed book is worth more to me than a PDF, simply because I can read it in more comfort. It's the combination of content and format that has value.

The problem comes as digital formats become more ubiquitous. If I owned an eBook reader - a better one than is currently available - then possibly a digital copy of a book or newspaper would be worth more to me than a printed book. This is already happening for music: lots of people actually prefer to have MP3s instead of CDs.

If digital distribution is the future, *and* we somehow believe that digital copies should not be paid for, then how does content get financed? I don't know the answer. I'm fascinated in seeing how things work out.

For news, at least, I think that competition will push consumer prices towards zero, such that pay sites won't be able to compete.

Micropayments (2, Insightful)

ZekoMal (1404259) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502377)

Easiest way to find a free alternative. Most people already pay for TV of some sort on top of internet, so if every single news outlet (including local news outlets and blogs and places like slashdot) started charging for you to view news, people would simply watch the news they already technically pay for. I have no problem paying for new news. The problem with our news is that every outlet runs the same story with their commentary slapped on top.

NPR (2, Insightful)

TrippTDF (513419) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502399)

Advertising on the internet simply does not work, and micropayments are never going to fly. Newspapers need to adopt the NPR beg-a-thon method. They need to learn to live with lower overheads and lower revenues. Their sales forces need to convert into grant-writers and they need to focus on asking their readers and big corporate donors for money.

Re:NPR (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502459)

Or, they need to find a new, workable revenue model for an age where people do not want to pay just to be informed about the world. The news itself must be subsidized by something else, some related business where the newspapers can use their reputation for quality journalism to boost sales. What that business might be, I do not personally know, but if it cannot be discovered, then you are right: journalists are going to be begging for money to do their work.

Re:NPR (1)

MrMr (219533) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502745)

What that business might be, I do not personally know
How is it possible to create content, and print millions of copies and ship them for free ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_daily_newspaper [wikipedia.org] ), but not keep a server with the same content available?

Re:NPR (1)

tibman (623933) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503093)

Like selling ebook readers the way cell phones are done. Cheap up front with several year contract lock-ins to pay off the reader. News/Content could even be delivered as a paid service.

Re:NPR (4, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502617)

Advertising on the internet doesn't work because they're doing it wrong. The more in your face they make it, the harder we readers concentrate on ignoring it, and when it gets too outrageous we put in ad blockers. ADVERTISING SHOULD NOT MOVE IN A PAGE YOU'RE TRYING TO READ. When I see a page of blinkey flashing twirley ads with two paragraphs per page, I know that the site is pure shit and is only there to garner cash for some greedhead. They're lucky if they get me to read the first page.

The lower overheads need to come in the form of lower wages for the top earners. Millions of dollars a year, even hundreds of thousands per year for ONE single employee is ludicrous.

Re:NPR (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502707)

Ads in general need to become more targeted and less obnoxious.

This isn't just a "web" problem. This is a problem in general
and one that is simply "masked" by older media because it's
less obvious that people are ignoring you. The existence of
Tivos and AdBlock make it obvious that people WANT to avoid
your ads and are doing so. In old media, you can "kid yourself"
because there's no obvious and visible method of avoidance.

It's the old 50's idea that if people weren't talking about it
then it wasn't happening when infact it really was.

Re:NPR (1)

blueZ3 (744446) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503019)

If newspaper reporters, photographers, or even editors are making millions where you live, you must live somewhere where print journalism works differently than any market I've ever seen. The same if your local TV reporter (sportscaster, weather girl, etc) is making millions.

As far as I know, the only people making that kind of money in journalism are cable and network anchors who are nationally recognized figures. This is a handful of people in the whole country--and lowering that limited overhead is not going to save the business of journalism.

The main thing that needs to happen is better targeting. Targeting of news content (already happens, but needs to get better) targeting of ads (currently almost useless) and targeting of audience. If news outlets can get their act together and find a niche that works then they'll survive, micro payments or not. The ones that can't adjust to this new reality will either die off or get federal funding.

Re:NPR (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503363)

I'm pretty sure he means the media moguls at the top. If you follow the majority of the money getting paid to these media corporations you will see that most of it flows into a remarkably small number of pockets. You certainly don't tend to see a lot of dividends paid to stockholders; instead, you see splits, which are half bullshit anyway. (The market half)

Re:NPR (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503307)

Advertising on the internet doesn't work because they're doing it wrong.

Advertising without flashing and twirling doesn't work. So what you're saying is, advertising doesn't work on the internet because I'm offended by the very things that make advertisements work, which is to say, getting and holding your attention in spite of your best interest.

You're acting like advertising is about providing you information about products so that you can make an informed purchase decision. That's not advertising; that's technical information, and it comes from a different mindset. Advertising is about creating an association with a brand or product. If they can make their name familiar to you, then your brain will automatically urge you to select their product when you're holding it and their competitor's product. This is what advertising is about... tricking you into buying something.

In short, we come right back to the statement that advertising on the internet doesn't work. Except, it does! All those banners and other annoying ads wouldn't be there if they didn't work on enough people to derive some profit from the concept. People are obviously still clicking on pop-ups and buying shit through the pop-up links. So really, advertising on the internet works. I suspect we'll see more interstitial ads and popups, and the "news" will still keep going strong. Of course, if they report some actually important news without spinning it their way, it's a total accident, since 95% of the media in the US (or more) is controlled by ten corporations, which also own moe than half of the media in the world. Think about that next time you visit a corporate news site... It's ALL advertising. Every. Stinking. Word.

Re:NPR (1)

slim (1652) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503689)

The more in your face they make it, the harder we readers concentrate on ignoring it, and when it gets too outrageous we put in ad blockers. ADVERTISING SHOULD NOT MOVE IN A PAGE YOU'RE TRYING TO READ. When I see a page of blinkey flashing twirley ads with two paragraphs per page, I know that the site is pure shit and is only there to garner cash for some greedhead. They're lucky if they get me to read the first page.

Market forces should solve this one. If it's not working, it'll change until it works better.

However, if it is working (that is, the publisher and the advertiser are still making profits), then your individual irritation is not relevant.

Re:NPR (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502651)

You do realize that Google is a very successful internet ad sales company, right?

They provide search and other services because it gives them a convenient place to put the ads that they sell.

Re:NPR (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502959)

And they're one of the few companies that gets how to advertise effectively, efficiently and usefully.

Go to just about any news website. You'll see flashing ads, bouncing ads, ads that pop down from the top.

Like I said above, the reader is there for the content. If the newspaper provides compelling content, then there will be more readers, they can charge more for ads, and be choosy about the quality of the ads. But newspapers are run by ad people. They think more ads = more revenue even if you're driving your readers away. Yes, they're ALL that dumb.

Re:NPR (1)

slim (1652) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503709)

But newspapers are run by ad people. They think more ads = more revenue even if you're driving your readers away. Yes, they're ALL that dumb.

So either it's not working, in which case they'll go out of business and they won't be mourned... ... or it is working, and more ads = more revenue is actually true.

Re:NPR (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29502941)

Advertising on the internet simply does not work, and micropayments are never going to fly. Newspapers need to adopt the NPR beg-a-thon method. They need to learn to live with lower overheads and lower revenues. Their sales forces need to convert into grant-writers and they need to focus on asking their readers and big corporate donors for money.

So basically you want some one else to pay for your news? Ultimately that seems to be the model everyone is favoring, let some one else pay for what I want. Artists should work for free and now reporters are overpaid or outright greedy. I used to work for a newspaper and it's not as easy as it looks. Print news has been on a decline since the 70s and the paper I used to work for has since shut down. The quality of journalism has dropped like a rock and it's going to get a lot worse. Would you prefer government run news services? Hey at least we'd be wining the war in Afghanistan if the government was the sole news source. If you think bloggers are the solution I hate to break it to you but they are either just giving opinion which isn't news or leeching off stories established news sources paid for. If the news sources dry up where do you think it will come from? Back in the 60s and 70s we had strong newspapers and reliable TV news. Most people think things are better now but they aren't. Newspapers have been around longer than this country and they are part of the First Amendment. It'll be a sad day when kids will learn about newspapers in a history class.

Re:NPR (1)

slim (1652) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503083)

Advertising on the internet simply does not work

Got a source for that?

An awful lot of people seem to be (spending|earning) money on it.

Re:NPR (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29503699)

Newspapers need to adopt the NPR beg-a-thon method.

What, be government subsidized, gain most of their money from advertisers, and still whine for money?

The money from those beg-a-thons makes up less than a quarter of their budget. The rest comes from our tax money (whether we want it to or not) and advertisers.

I'm sorry, "corporate sponsors" - NPR is "ad free." *cough*

No payments, micro or otherwise (1)

Chicken04GTO (957041) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502405)

I wont pay for news content period. There's very little out there that I have to have right now, and somewhere, someone else will have it for free. I might pay for a value added website, but not for news, which really is just raw material.

How about "Holy Grail and delusion" (4, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502417)

It's the Holy Grail of media outlets, because it would get people to pay for something that has been given away for a long time. But it's a delusion as well, since efforts at doing just that have not met with anything remotely like success.

For instance, the New York Times tried to do a "Times Select" paid service with a lot of formerly free content available for the low low price of $10.99 per year or so. It must not have worked, because a few months later all the content that used to be hidden behind the paywall was placed back on the free site.

Re:How about "Holy Grail and delusion" (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503009)

Perfect example.

Even though most would consider the NY Times to have some real premium content worthy of paying for, they couldn't make it work. How are any other news sites going to?

http://www.nytimes.com/marketing/ts/index.html [nytimes.com]

Micro (0)

rossdee (243626) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502419)

The SI definition of micro is one millionth. Its gonna take a lot of payments to add up to even 1 cent. I doubt that it would be economical.

Re:Micro (3, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502815)

Yes, but anything smaller than a million dollars is chump change for these rich greedheads, so a buck IS a micropayment -- to them.

Re:Micro (2, Insightful)

blueZ3 (744446) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503097)

I think this is one key point: micro payments need to be micro. I'm not paying $.25 to read the on-line version of an AP article on the NYT site. If you figure there are 100 articles in the weekly edition of the NYT, then a single article is worth something less than 1/2 a cent, in print. If you eliminate the printing and distribution costs, say 1/4 or 1/8 a cent per article. I might pay a few pennies to read the entire site, but I'm not willing to pay anywhere near the dead-tree price for on-line news.

Another point: whatever they take for micropayments it has to be something easy and ubiquitous. I'm not jumping through hoops so that I can pay 1/8th of a cent to read the obits. And whatever it is, it can't be something that only works one place. I'm not signing up for "NYTCa$h" that can't be used anywhere but the NYT site.

My personal opinion is that news will continue to be ad-supported for the foreseeable future. As technology improves and ads become more targeted, they will be increasingly effective and less annoying. Hopefully this will happen soon enough to keep journalism alive.

What it means for journalism? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29502421)

Well hopefully it means the resurrection of journalism and the death of sensationalism. Ultimately it's up to generation Y to decide what we want.

I demand (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29502425)

I demand payment for this comment, slashdot.

Re:I demand (1)

SteveFoerster (136027) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502897)

Then it was an interesting choice to post as AC....

Re:I demand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29503001)

Payment acknowledged. Receipt is in the post.

Re:I demand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29503565)

I demand payment for this comment, slashdot.

Yes indeed. I am being ex-head of International Committeee on Exploitation of Foreign Resources in St.Serif island. Appearance of unfortunate irregularities in these finances means that myself not longer in former position of power. Accidentally diverted funds in amount of US$150,000,000 (ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY MILLION U.S. DOLLARS) are in accounts under my control, but which I tragically cannot withdraw to my personally. As payment for your comment, I offer 10% (TEN PERCENT) of the total amounts if the remainder can be transferred via undertakings of your account to mine.
Please be sending your legal name and address, banking information including passwords, all credit card numbers, and a photograph of your teenage daughters in the nude, and I will speedily hasten to consummate this divine opportunity.
His Most Excellent Holiness, Illustrious Field Marshall Prince Ranavalona XI (ret.)

News is an experiential good (4, Informative)

sjbe (173966) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502427)

The problem with news is that it is an experiential good [wikipedia.org] meaning you can't determine it's value in advance. You only know whether it was worth something AFTER you read it. So why would someone pay for news that might or might not be valuable? Usually because the source has a track record of providing good information (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, etc) or you have some other reason to suspect that the information might be valuable (information about a stock that is not widely known for instance). But the seller of information by definition cannot know what the information is worth to the buyer in advance. Generally the seller finds out it was worth something to the buyer if the buyer buys information from them again.

There is money to be made in paying for content that can be had for free elsewhere. Apple's iTunes is proof enough of that. BUT it has to provide something you can't easily get from the free (even if illegal) alternatives. That could be convenience, it could be support, it could be complementary technology (iPod/Kindle), it could be reliability, it could be unusually insightful analysis, and it could be other things. Just copying the latest AP news has some value but not enough many people will pay for it directly.

more news balkenization and trolling (4, Insightful)

xzvf (924443) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502627)

Forcing people to pay for news will only increase the tendency for people to only read news they agree with. What will "save" the news industry is a shift away from creating the content to vetting content created by interested parties. While most newspapers (US) have had deteriorating quality since the Spanish-American war most in depth reporting has been done by interested parties. Groklaw is a good example of a single subject reporting. What good news aggregators should do is make it easy for people interested in SCO to find Groklaw, press releases by involved parties, and alternative views on the subject. Real "news" reform would force government, corporations and even non-profits to be more transparent in their dealings, making it easier for interested parties to research and create quality news. Tort reform to keep legal action from crushing individuals prior to judicial review (ie loser pays) would have significant impact too.

Re:News is an experiential good (2, Insightful)

slim (1652) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503643)

The problem with news is that it is an experiential good meaning you can't determine it's value in advance.

Indeed, and while we get over this with periodicals by using past performance as a guide, I'd say that this only works if you look at whole edition of a newspaper as a bundle, rather than looking article by article.

If I loved one Guardian article, I don't think that's a reliable indicator that I'll love some arbitrary Guardian article from today's edition.

Rather, I've found in the past that a typical copy of the Guardian (GBP 1.20) contains a a bunch of headlines I can skim through to get a general idea of what's going on in the world; three or four news articles I want to read in full; maybe one in-depth double page spread I can get my teeth into; some lightweight commentary; a letters page; reviews; a crossword and sudoku if I'm bored later on.

If you unbundled those and tried to charge for the separately, I don't think it would work. I happily pay the cover price for a newspaper knowing that I'll skip more than half of it. But I don't know which half until after I've paid, and neither does the editor.

A working micropayment system might help! (1)

upuv (1201447) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502431)

OK news is another content type on the net that would benefit from micro-payments.

Problem. Is there a micro-payment system out there that people would trust? NOPE.

Every micro scheme I've seen to date want to effectively tax the user with huge fees. Or saddle it with some craptastic marketing angle.

Until the governments put some trust behind the system like have for cash then micro payments are a no show.

News content wont be beholden to advertisers (4, Insightful)

microbox (704317) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502519)

I sense a problem that can be solved with S****ISM (deleted as a proactive measure to stop the political-right from having a heart-attack). The BBC news is light-years ahead of anything in the USA. It's also politically independent, unlike state-run newspapers in Iran, China and Russia.

Can you not see a simple solution when it's staring you in the face? Has Rupert Murdoch out-foxed you all? Create an independently funded public institution, with a mandate to "educate", "inform" and "entertain", and maybe the citizens of the USA wont score so poorly on survey questions such as "were WMDs found in Iraq".

And your news content wont be beholden to advertising interests.

Re:News content wont be beholden to advertisers (3, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502695)

We could call it "PBS".

Re:News content wont be beholden to advertisers (1)

blueZ3 (744446) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503127)

Or NPR

Seriously--we HAVE public-funded news here in the U.S.--it's just that nobody's interested in listening :-)

Re:News content wont be beholden to advertisers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29503311)

We could call it "PBS".

Or "The History Channel," "The Discovery Channel," etc....

Re:News content wont be beholden to advertisers (0, Redundant)

corbettw (214229) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503043)

Congratulations! You just invented NPR.

Re:News content wont be beholden to advertisers (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503577)

Which ism are you talking about? Satanism? Stoicism? It ain't socialism because (a) it doesn't fit into your clue and (b) socialism doesn't "solve" problems.

As others have said, there is the Public Broadcasting Service (TV) and National Public Radio, both of which are widely available to anyone who wants to tune into them. Despite being publicly funded, unfortunately both organizations tilt quite far in the same ideological direction.

PS you appear to have an unhealthy fascination with Americans...this story was about micropayments and your whole post is "AmeriKKKans are so stupid!" take a break man.

Re:News content wont be beholden to advertisers (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503753)

The BBC news is light-years ahead of anything in the USA. It's also politically independent, unlike state-run newspapers in Iran, China and Russia.

This should be +5 Funny, not +5 Insightful.

The BBC is the left-wing propaganda arm of the British state; the only sense in which it's 'politically independent' is that it doesn't drop its left-wing slant even when a right-wing government is in power, though it does tone down a little.

Second News? (4, Funny)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502631)

Maybe the newspapers could start charging Linden Dollars for stories? :)

Holy Grail != Delusion? (0, Offtopic)

TyIzaeL (1203354) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502435)

Last I checked, the Holy Grail was a delusion.

Re:Holy Grail != Delusion? (3, Funny)

happy_place (632005) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502505)

No. I think we all know, thanks to the movies, that the holy grail is guarded by a really bored knight of the round-table even to this day and is a common looking cup that can heal your dad's wounds, and then will cause an earthquake opening a great chasm that will swallow any (especially hot nazi dominatrix-type women) who try to grab it, instead of chosing to live...

Re:Holy Grail != Delusion? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503625)

It wasn't a delusion, it was just a cup that a guy who is still remembered 2000 years later drank from before he was tortured to death. It most likely no longer exists, but it did at one time. Its existance was documented.

Advertising (4, Insightful)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502473)

With a very few exceptions, news is worth what you can get advertisers to pay for access to the consumers. This has been true since the advent of television journalism half a century ago.

It's the newspaper's own fault that craigs list took over classified advertising. They had the better part of a decade to get their acts together and get the ads online before craigs list existed. And it's their own fault that they still haven't learned the Google advertising lesson so that they're still serving worthless banner ads that many if not most of the browsers block.

If they continue to refuse to embrace their new reality, they will continue to fail. Such is fate.

Re:Advertising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29502621)

And it's their own fault that they still haven't learned the Google advertising lesson so that they're still serving worthless banner ads that many if not most of the browsers block.

While I agree with the major part of your post, that part is simply not true.

I do a lot of data analysis on (among others) big news sites. If you hang out on slashdot you'd start to imagine hardly anyone still browses without flash blocking, but let me assure you, the amount of people that actually block flash ads are still in the "too few to even mention" category.

Re:Advertising (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502969)

news is worth what you can get advertisers to pay for access to the consumers

This has dangerous implications. More people will watch entertaining news than factual news. They prefer "easy" news to abstract (but possibly of greater effect) news and will turn off if it's not presented as a series of soundbites: which makes in-depth coverage and analysis impossible.

I can see a good case to say that informing citizens is as important as protecting them and therefore should be financed (if not controlled by) the state.

pay after reading (1)

Tom (822) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502537)

One problem is, of course, that often times you can only estimate the worth of an article after reading it.

I wouldn't mind a system that tells me at the end of the month about the top 10 news sites I've read and allows me to say "yeah, they were good, give them some money". I know I have a few regular sites that I'd give some right now if it were as easy as a PayPal link.

Re:pay after reading (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502709)

Trouble is, too few would pay after-the-fact. Unfortunately, donation-driven systems just don't work for something as costly as gathering news.

Re:pay after reading (1)

Tom (822) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502817)

It would not have to be voluntary. I don't mind a fixed amount of money I have to give to the media industry, as long as it satisfies two conditions:

a) it is relative to the amount I actually consume (no TV = no TV fee)
b) I can decide how it gets distributed, none of this GEMA crap (GEMA is the german institution that collects and distributes royalties, usually to the top acts)

The technology exists.

Re:pay after reading (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502949)

Sorry, you've lost me. Must be time for my medications (sips coffee) ahh, better.

If you can't determine the value of news until after you read it, isn't any system based on pay-by-value voluntary?

Or are you referring to a system where you'd be obliged to pay, say, 10 cents per article you read no matter what the quality, but you were allowed to specify where the money went? So if you felt one article was worthless and another was worth 20 cents, you could pay the good writer 20 cents?

If so, and given the average laziness of most, you'll end up with a GEMA system by default - people will give all of their money to the one outlet they find the most useful because splitting up the funds is, like, work.

Information must be free (1)

EzInKy (115248) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502573)

It is only when everyone is completely free to spread and comment on information that everyone will be free. Until then the people without will be subject to the filters of the people with.

Suggestion for news aggregators: Quit trying to emulate television by attempting to force ads on your viewers.

Subscription + tipping (1)

Harlan879 (878542) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502579)

I don't want have to decide *before* I read an article whether I want to pay for it, I want to decide *after*. To that end, I propose the following micropayment system. If I want to get content from a consortium of providers (say, anything owned by The New York Times Company, or Time-Warner, or Seed Media Group, or a group of publishers that set up their own consortium), I set up an account, pay my $50/year, and get access. If I like a piece of content (article, podcast, interactive graphic, whatever), I click the "Tip the Author(s)" button, and a chunk of my $50, maybe 10 cents, gets redirected to the actual people creating the content I actually like (not just start to read). If I don't use up my $50 for the year, it just gets split internally by the consortium. This way, readers have control over where the money goes and get to associate "paying money" with "feeling good about what they read", providers get cash, and the best providers get the most cash.

Re:Subscription + tipping (1)

flitty (981864) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503455)

This is a pretty good idea. For that price, i'd want both Hard news, say a Reuters news feed, a few magazines like newsweek, and even some more noteable blogs could be added. I also would want some of my "tip" to go to the org. that produced the information, so that they can focus on other important, but less popular stuff.

Using the tip method too, it might be a good idea to to a retroactive sliding scale for the amount of content you use. Not a hard bill mind you, more of a "You tipped 1,000 news articles in the last year, which means 500 articles you tipped were not fully compensated. Please consider paying more this year for your subscription." and allowing you to pay a higher rate.

Re:Subscription + tipping (1)

mattcsn (1592281) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503465)

That's one of the more interesting ideas I've heard in a long time. I agree with you.

Micropayments will favor celebrity gossip? (1)

jittles (1613415) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502607)

I worked for a newspaper in college, I know they are typically trying to be sensational. The top searches every day often involve celebrity news. If news organizations are making all their money off of gossip are they going to stop investing in quality local and investigative articles? Will micropayments be the downfall of quality news?

Re:Micropayments will favor celebrity gossip? (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503201)

Will micropayments be the downfall of quality news?

No. Because the downfall of quality news has already happened. The TV news stations have the murder/robbery/assault of the day (with an "on scene" report where nothing is happening), followed by ads thinly disguised as stories, then weather, then sports (the single largest part of the newscast). The local newspaper (Philadelphia Inquirer) simply prints an abridged version of the news from the New York Times of the day before. The radio news is still good if you want the traffic and weather report (and you'll get the murder of the day sooner), but the medium lends itself to a fairly superficial treatment... which is unfortunately just as good as the treatment you'll get in the Inquirer the next day.

It's All About Circulation (4, Insightful)

curmudgeon99 (1040054) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502657)

Anyone like me who has published a paper newspaper knows that it is all about circulation. Every additional cent that you charge for a copy of your publication does not increase your profits. Instead, it decreases your circulation.

Point in fact: when I lived in Omaha, Nebraska I bought a copy of the New York Times every day and read it on the treadmill.

Now, I live in New York City where the New York Times costs $2.00 a copy. I have bought it about three times at that price.

In short, micropayments is a sure way to send people somewhere else for the news.

A new era for news (1)

thisnamestoolong (1584383) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502677)

I think that the main problem here is that they are attempting to charge directly for something that has ALWAYS been free -- news in all its current iterations is solely an ad-supported medium. People pay for newspapers, that is true, but the costs of subscription barely (if at all) covers the cost of cutting down trees, milling them into paper, putting ink on them, and then putting them on trucks to deliver to front doors across the world. The costs associated with the actual journalism part has ALWAYS been ad-supported, that is why you do not need to pay anything to watch news on TV or listening to it on the radio. Subscription costs have historically been assessed to cover the cost of distribution. With the relatively minimal cost (I know bandwidth is not free, but it is significantly cheaper than the printing press) of distribution online, there is no need to charge subscription. When the newspaper business comes and tries to tell you that the Internet is changing the game by getting you your news for free, tell them to blow it out their ass. They are the ones trying to change the game here, they are trying to charge for something which has been free as long as it has been in existence.

The difference between 0.00001 and free is massive (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502681)

While a free site will get a lot of visitors (most of whom are merely casual browser types) as soon as they start charging even the slightest amount you can expect their readership to fall off dramatically. Why is that?

Well most people regard news as just another form of entertainment - we know this, as the most popular news programmes on TV are not the authoritative ones that tell us important information about events that will affect us. The one's that get the biggest audiances are the "populist" news programmes that deal more with celebrity gossip, scandals and rumours (oh yes, and sport). The conclusion is that people want entertainment more than they want information. Occasionally, when there's a Sept-11 type event people pile in to news channels, but since these almost never happen there's no way to build a profitable news channel or website based on regularly occurring disasters.

So if people are given two options: free entertainment websites on the one hand and paid-for sites on the other, they will almost always choose the free stuff. The small number of individuals who want and need in-depth analysis and coverage are already buying papers like the FT and WSJ and using their onlibe outlets, too. There's no room for much more in that field.

Re:The difference between 0.00001 and free is mass (1)

slim (1652) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503357)

While a free site will get a lot of visitors (most of whom are merely casual browser types) as soon as they start charging even the slightest amount you can expect their readership to fall off dramatically. Why is that?

I see you've been reading Chris Anderson :)

It's an absolutely valid point. But the other side of the coin is that when you charge even the slightest amount, and your readership drops, the readers who remain are demonstrably committed to your subject matter. Advertisers love that kind of audience. If you sell handlebars, would you rather pay $1000 to reach 100,000 web users who skim past bikemag.com for free, or $1000 to reach 10,000 web users who are so into bikes that they pay $1/month for premium access to the site?

(Yes - this means you have to define a premium service where "no ads" isn't the selling point)

I'm pretty sure (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502685)

But I'm pretty sure of one thing: It doesn't mean charging people fractions of a cent to read a news story, no matter how sophisticated the process.'

Well I'm pretty sure that this is exactly what micropayments are for.

Yes, or... (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502703)

1. Report accurately on poignant world events, or specialist news which is well researched and factually accurate.
2. Increase readership.
3. Charge more for advertising space.
4. ...

Pay? Not for rags. (1)

miffo.swe (547642) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502717)

I could se myself pay for high quality articles where the reporters go out on a limb, do research and investigation resulting in unbiased and correct reporting.

Problem is most media today are highly biased, write stuff any blogger can do better and wouldnt dare touch a sensitive topic if its anything but 100% PK with upper management. The product arent worth the money and why should i pay for what is essentially propaganda aimed at me?

Im the one who should get money for all the ads, both in normal papers and in write-for-rent rags where a big ad gets you a nice article about your company.

Co-op (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29502777)

If these guys want to charge for their content they should combine their offerings into a subscription service. We are used to watching television programming through the cable or satellite companies. We pay for access to a collection of channels and content. It would seem very odd to pay for each show. It would also make flipping the channels difficult and in the end people would probably just watch less TV. The same situation would be true for Newspaper articles. I would pay for a subscription to a newspaper co-op that allowed me to read articles from a collection of reputable papers.

Pay With Exposure Counts (1)

jDeepbeep (913892) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502781)

Is there a reason why advertising doesn't pay for the content? What am I missing here?

Being able to pick tv channels is a Micropayments (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502785)

Being able to pick tv channels is a Micropayments system that I want to see.
I should I be forced to pay for the disney channel carp just to get ESPN?
I can't I get some channels that are only on comcarp at this time on sat tv? I want to pay for CLTV and have it on my direct tv system.
Why does comcarp cable put fox movie channel in the sport pack?

Considering (3, Interesting)

dgun (1056422) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502791)

The general public doesnâ€(TM)t put any value on the source of their 'news'. In other words, a twitter post is just as good as something from the AP. This is partially due, IMO, to shitty poor journalism, so little time and effort is spent investigating and digging for original content nowadays. Rather, today 'journalists' slap together a handful of talking points and use other news organization's reports as sources. Journalism today has by and large become a cycle of shit, thanks in large part to the freak show circus of cable 'news'.

So, I don't see myself paying Google for the same quality of 'news' I can get for free from any random jerk's blog.

Re:Considering (3, Insightful)

blueZ3 (744446) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503263)

Think about this: when a reporter covers an area that you're an expert in, how much do they get wrong? For instance, if you know a lot about computers, how often do you hear a reporter completely misrepresent something or get some key fact exactly backwards? Now extrapolate that to EVERY area of expertise (except possibly sports) and determine how reliable journalism is. Unless there's a video of the actual event (and I mean a video as it happens, not Bob from the Washington Bureau shaking his head as the ambulances drive away) you can pretty much count on getting half the facts, badly distorted, and intentionally slanted to fit the reporter's (or their editor's) bias.

News has ALWAYS been this way--it's just that you're noticing it more. About 35 years ago I had an article written about me in the local paper. It was filled with "direct quotes" of things that I never said, contained about six factual errors in two paragraphs, and was essentially completely divorced from the reality of what had happened.

Let the providers pay (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502839)

They won't of course, and this will be a good thing: FINALLY Yahoo will stop feeding me their noisome bullshit they call "news". I go there for email. I don't care about the biggest hamburger of all time, or what the latest scoop is on the Hollywood douchebag du jour. Likely, "news" will then become a feature of the "Premier" or paid account on Yahoo, which is FINE BY ME. Good grief, I could vomit with all the details I've been bombarded about Jon and Kate, and I don't even watch the damn show or have slightest care who the fuck these idiots are.

RS

You know what they need (1)

Veretax (872660) | more than 5 years ago | (#29502957)

Instead of forcing consumers to pay, they need a viral network that will distribute their news to people in as many ways as they can possibly connect, while adding in the advertisements in just like they do on radio or TV. I imagine it could work something like the Cybus Earbuds you see in the BBC Science Fiction show "Doctor Who" :D

Now that might scare a few people, but it is not meant to be, however, with Cell Phone use nearly ubiquitous in some parts of the world, maybe that's where news needs to be targetting instead of trying to play catch up, they might actually be able to 'innovate' and find a way to deliver news to readers in a way that gets their advertisers much better coverage.

What do you guys think?

Gossip Is Free (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503073)

The news corporations have reduced their news products to he/she said gossip.

The journalism that people used to buy in newspapers every day (sometimes twice a day) was the report of a person finding the actual facts and telling the actual story. The modern version, especially (but not at all exclusively) on TV, is the report of a person collecting different sides of an argument, telling what each arguer said (and editing them to look just as reasonable on each side). Radio news isn't even that: it's pure commentary propaganda, paid for by corporate sponsors (not at all necessarily the advertisers).

Who would pay for that crap? Especially in the most propaganda news (the majority of it), the news org should pay its audience to consume it, as the product is designed to serve the news org's needs, usually contrary to its audience's needs.

The news industry should be thriving in the Info Age, with free distribution and a nearly universal audience. Instead it kept its worst artifacts of the previous eras, especially its corruption, while its main moneymakers (embedded ads and classifieds) were done better by new, focused competitors after news orgs failed for over a decade to do it right.

Payments for news that isn't either urgent (eg. its value in making more money or protecting lives/property vanishes after 15 minutes) or valuable to an audience too small to compete with an organized distribution org (eg. technical bulletins for specialists) is just as much delusion as is the Holy Grail. The quest for it is the industry. Actually having it is a fantasy.

Newspapers need to get back into journalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29503121)

Newspapers have a fundamental problem, which is that they do little original journalism, buying from sources like AAP and Reuters instead.

They are not really in the business of selling papers to people, rather they provide eyeballs to parade advertisements in front of. The news is mere bait to entice the eyeballs to bite.

Perhaps it made good business sense to outsource content and to focus on the core business, which is carrying advertisements to the eyeballs. As a strategy it seems to have worked well so far, and for radio and tv, too, but it fails in the era of the internet, and for the same reason why it used to work: Production cost. The cost of publishing a paper, also radio and tv, is enormous because a lot of very expensive equipment is needed. Sadly for the publishers, it costs approximately nothing to publish on the internet, just the cost of the content, really.

The papers observe falling revenues at the same time that their consumption grows online, and may feel, incorrectly, that the paper they print and deliver is somehow competing with, and losing income from, their own online edition. But even though they get no revenue from online readers, neither does it cost much to provide the service; and while they continue to be read, they continue to have a product to sell: eyeballs, remember?

The easy money in news comes from creating content, which you make available under licence. There aren't all that many people in that game, so competition is small and rewards are correspondingly higher. The papers will all line-up to pay for the right to republish, because that's what they do.

David Newall

Here, time is worth more than the price. (3, Insightful)

v(*_*)vvvv (233078) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503365)

For one simple reason, micropayments as they are debated here will never work.

When the product is too cheap, then the time and effort buying the product is the true cost to the buyer.

In other words, after a certain point, it just has to be free, or it simply isn't worth it.

What's more, if the seller doesn't value their product enough to charge a non-micro amount for it, then what they are doing is failing to make a value proposition, which is the essence of a business transaction.

No one will pay pennies for something worth pennies.

Newspapers are already cheap, but they are not free. But they aren't micro-priced either. Whether it is buying a paper at the stand or subscribing months at a time, there is a valid value proposition there.

On-line media has yet to find that value proposition. Without that proposition, debating the technical details concerning how payments will be made is getting waaaaaaaaaaaaaay ahead of yourself.

More details (2, Informative)

sootman (158191) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503585)

For those interested in more detail about the economics and psychology behind Clay's theory that micropayments will never work, I recommend this earlier piece from 2000. [openp2p.com] Nine years later, we still haven't seen a viable micropayment system (where "micro" = 25 cents or less) and I don't think that will change.

...micropayments would still seem to have an advantage over larger payments, since the cost of the transaction is so low. Who could haggle over a penny's worth of content? After all, people routinely leave extra pennies in a jar by the cashier. Surely amounts this small makes valuing a micropayment transaction effortless?

Here again micropayments create a double-standard. One cannot tell users that they need to place a monetary value on something while also suggesting that the fee charged is functionally zero. This creates confusion - if the message to the user is that paying a penny for something makes it effectively free, then why isn't it actually free? Alternatively, if the user is being forced to assent to a debit, how can they behave as if they are not spending money?

Beneath a certain price, goods or services become harder to value, not easier, because the X for Y comparison becomes more confusing, not less. Users have no trouble deciding whether a $1 newspaper is worthwhile - did it interest you, did it keep you from getting bored, did reading it let you sound up to date - but how could you decide whether each part of the newspaper is worth a penny?

Was each of 100 individual stories in the newspaper worth a penny, even though you didn't read all of them? Was each of the 25 stories you read worth 4 cents apiece? If you read a story halfway through, was it worth half what a full story was worth? And so on.

When you disaggregate a newspaper, it becomes harder to value, not easier. By accepting that different people will find different things interesting, and by rolling all of those things together, a newspaper achieves what micropayments cannot: clarity in pricing.

The very micro-ness of micropayments makes them confusing. At the very least, users will be persistently puzzled over the conflicting messages of "This is worth so much you have to decide whether to buy it or not" and "This is worth so little that it has virtually no cost to you."...

Imagine you are moving and need to buy cardboard boxes. Now you could go and measure the height, width, and depth of every object in your house - every book, every fork, every shoe - and then create 3D models of how these objects could be most densely packed into cardboard boxes, and only then buy the actual boxes. This would allow you to use the minimum number of boxes.

But you don't care about cardboard boxes, you care about moving, so spending time and effort to calculate the exact number of boxes conserves boxes but wastes time. Furthermore, you know that having one box too many is not nearly as bad as having one box too few, so you will be willing to guess how many boxes you will need, and then pad the number.

For low-cost items, in other words, you are willing to overpay for cheap resources, in order to have a system that maximizes other, more important, preferences. Micropayment systems, by contrast, typically treat cheap resources (content, cycles, disk) as precious commodities, while treating the user's time as if were so abundant as to be free.

The future is not black and white (2, Interesting)

PhunkySchtuff (208108) | more than 5 years ago | (#29503611)

As usual, what will end up happening will be something between the two extremes.

Not every news site will be able to, or even want to go with a paid subscription model. Some sites that are charging for content at present, such as the WSJ, will continue to do so. Quite a few more will make the shift to paid access, only some of these will be successful in doing so, some will fold and the rest will go back to the present model of advertising.

What people will see real value in, and will be accepting of paying for is opinion, insight and thought. Current events are raw data - they happen and they're reported as-is. Where the value lies is turning that raw data into information and this is what people will pay for. As an example, anyone can walk into the Australian Bureau of Statistics and get raw import/export data for commodities. There is no value in someone else simply republishing these statistics. What there is value in is looking at the series over time, analysing the data with your knowledge of the industry, saying why things happened in the past and what they're likely to do in the future. People will pay a lot of money for this kind of information.

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