Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

MediaWatch Monday: Paywalls Will Help Newspapers Focus On Their Value-Add

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 29, 2010

There has been much written about newspaper paywalls and how they won't work. And there is a perception that newspaper paywalls represent a backward step.

But I don't see it that way. Yes, paywalls won't work if they are constructed around content that is easily available elsewhere for free. But if it is around content that you can't get anywhere else -- then that's a different discussion.

And that's a discussion that has to happen within each newspaper.

For too long, newspapers in the US had a local monopoly, they could republish stories from AP, Reuters, etc. They had their own foreign correspondents, all writing similar stories. Today, that doesn't work.

Today you need original content and that's where the value is. Newspaper paywalls will force newspapers to figure out what is their value-add. Those answers will help determine editorial coverage and business model.

Paywalls become just one aspect of a newspaper's business model. I've written about the 'Heinz 57' new media business model idea, which has multiple revenue streams.

Paywalls doesn't mean you have abandoned creative ways of making more money from advertising, which is what Jeff Jarvis, publisher of BuzzMachine, seems to think. It means you have more choices, more ways of monetizing content, and that is a good thing.

My concern is that newspapers are in shell-shock, that the disruptive forces they face will not give them the time to develop multiple revenue streams, that their rate of losses, and the loss of people, will overwhelm them. After all, disruptive technologies disrupt.

But I'm hopeful we will have newspapers that can transform their businesses. And that's what Rupert Murdoch, and others, are trying to do.

If they succeed, then we all succeed, because then we will have case studies available of how to run a new media business.

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Please see: The Times: Why the future of good news is not free

At present we are in the absurd position of charging people £2 for our newspaper while simultaneously offering the same content free online. The flawed logic was that internet advertising would pay for it. The recession has put a stop to that, so giving away expensive journalism is financially unsustainable and ultimately bad for us and our readers.


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