There has been a lot of buzz lately surrounding the fact that most online news content providers such as The Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Financial Times are charging users to view their articles, with the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and many others poised to follow suit in the near future. The subject of charging for online content has stirred up some mixed emotions and has created many skeptics who are irate over this turn of events.
We can argue until we are blue in the face whether it is right or wrong to charge for news content online. We can also argue whether it will even work, whether people are willing to pay to read their news online. But in the end it is inevitably going to happen because after years of losses it is proven that news content providers simply cannot run a sustainable business online without charging readers a fee. So that leaves us with the dilemma concerning what type of payment platform is best suited for users and online news providers.
When discussing the alternative methods of charging for online news content, three different methods seem to emerge. There are those who argue that a subscription model (of a day, month, or year) is the way to go. There are others that say a time metered rate is the best alternative. And finally there are those who argue that a pay-per-article payment platform would work best. Of course it is difficult to say which is in fact best as it is not that cut and dry, however I will weigh the pros and cons of each method to get an idea of each platform’s positives and negatives.
Subscription based models seem to be the most commonly adopted which is not all that surprising. Print newspaper sales have always been primarily subscription based so why change for the online news? It is not a complicated platform and readers are comfortable and very used to this form of payment for news content. News content providers have the opportunity to offer a variety of subscription models such as daily, monthly, or yearly. For one single fee, readers can enjoy unlimited access to everything the online news provider has to offer.
This brings up an interesting point though. Is anyone truly interested in everything an online news provider has to offer? Does anyone read every single article, look through all of the classifieds, and complete every puzzle? Don’t most people buy the paper to read certain sections (Business, Sports, Fashion, etc.) or even specific articles?
Then what about a time based fee where readers gain unlimited access of online news content for a limited time? This way readers can pick and choose the articles they want to read and granted they don’t read at a snail’s pace, would get more bang for their buck than using a subscription based model. The idea behind a rate per minute (or 5 min, 10 min, etc.) is that users will efficiently read only those articles that interest them.
However, there seems to be a few problems with a time based payment platform. For one, it takes the enjoyment out of leisurely reading and browsing, turning reading the news into more of a task related focus on retrieving as much pertinent and valuable information as one can as quickly as possible. Not to mention such a payment platform would certainly deter slower readers. I could see a plethora of other headaches arising such as readers who forget to sign out leaving their clocks running for hours and their rates soaring with a continuing variable cost. On the other hand what about readers who don’t even finish one article in a fixed time platform because they had to run off to do something else for five minutes?
Finally we have the per-article payment platform, where users can read the first paragraph of an article, but have to pay a small fee to read the whole thing. Using this method readers have time to pick and choose the articles they are interested in reading and can pay to read each specific article at their convenience. Readers can cheaply purchase a few articles that caught their eye. Many readers only buy a newspaper or magazine to read certain articles or sections anyway.
But what if you are the kind of reader that enjoys reading all of the news “cover to cover”? This type of payment platform is simply not the most cost effective way for such a reader to peruse all of the articles. Also the payment system would have to be easy for the reader to complete as it could get annoying to fill out lengthy forms each visit just to pay $0.20 to read a couple articles.
Each payment platform has its fair share of benefits and downfalls. Also, each online news source is unique therefore different payment platforms may be right for different sites. Perhaps the best payment platform for an online news content provider to adopt is a hybrid or mixture of two or all three of these methods.
So I pose the question to you, which online news content payment platform is the best? Did I miss any? Let us know what you think is the right payment platform for online news content providers to adopt.