Will newspaper sites ever be able to charge for their content?

I’m not completely certain which newspaper or news organisation was the very first to publish their content for free online, but whomever they are, they are responsible for initiating a very messy situation.

The pay versus free debate is rife and recurring at the moment, with Rupert Murdoch in particular time and again quoted as being on the brink of charging for the online content of his news sites.

And I can understand why. News may seem to generate itself, but the write-up and presentation of it does not. There are people working very hard in these organisations, putting hours and hours into the research behind these news stories and then further time into writing them in a way which will enable millions across the globe to understand what is going on in our fast-paced world.

What the big guys are saying

I have listened to employees at both Channel 4 and The Guardian talk about this issue this week. Both came up with a very similar answer when asked what they thought about future plans to start charging for news and content online.

They argued that for regular news, they could not see how people would ever be willing to pay for this. They argued that it would be very easy for people to get the main headlines and news of the day free somewhere on the internet and it would therefore be a waste of time even trying to charge for this.

However they both argued that where charging for content could work is where you are offering very specialist content. They argued that this is perhaps why the Financial Times has thus far been successful for charging for its specialist, financial news and content.

And this point of view makes a lot of sense. I’ve been thinking about some of the things I like to read, and, very much depending on how much was being charged for it, I think it is the more specialist stuff that I wouldn’t mind having to pay for. As long as it was a simple method of payment and it wasn’t an extortionate amount of money.

Murdoch, who in the UK owns the Times and the Sun, has other ideas though. There’s been rumours that he wants to start charging for all content by June next year.

And I’ve just seen this article, for free, on The Telegraph website, which says that Rupert Murdoch is ready to “block Google’s access to his sites soon”. There are murmurings in this article that it could happen ‘within months’.

It’s going to be very interesting to see what happens with all this.

We’re all used to things becoming cheaper, not more expensive. And surely, for it to have any chance of working, all the news corporations are going to have to agree to play ball. Otherwise, if only a few continue to publish content for free online, this is going to result in huge hits for them, therefore enabling them to charge a lot for advertising and they will then see no reason to need to start charging readers.

For once everyone’s going to have to just not be greedy, all for the greater good and for the survival of online news and journalism as a whole. And quite frankly I’m not sure if it’s possible for everyone not to be greedy. This is certainly something I’ll be keeping a very close, interested eye on…

By Sophie Hudson

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