News online charging goes to ‘stage 2’

A MEMO leaked to the Sydney Morning Herald from rival News Ltd, and published today, confirms News Digital Media is moving forward with a charging model for selected internet content.

The report underscores the thrust of an address at a recent PANPA conference by NDM chief executive Richard Freudenstein, who said research indicated readers were prepared to pay.

(To hear Richard’s address, please go here)

This is not a view shared by Mr Freudenstein’s opposite number at Fairfax Digital, Jack Matthews, who was quoted in today’s Herald report as being skeptical that readers would pay to access news.

However, as Mr Freudenstein stressed at the PANPA Future Forum two weeks ago, the prize was gaining revenue for premium content and context-related services, rather than asking for money to read what was in today’s newspaper.

The Herald report quoted Mr Freudenstein as telling staff in a memo: “News has conducted some audience research here in Australia and in the UK and US, which gives us confidence that, if we get the product and delivery system right, people will happily pay for news content online, on their computer, mobile, e-reader or other device.

“Here in Sydney we are about to move into the second phase of the project.”

Two surveys on the charging subject have been released in the past week. A UK-based one asked readers whether they would pay. And not surprisingly, they said they would not. Actually, 95 percent said that.

More interesting research came from the American Press Institute, which had asked executives attending its conferences this year how they would go about charging for online content.

Of the respondents, 49 percent said they would not even try to do this.

The slim majority prepared to execute a charging model said they would use several different payment methods, such as month/quarterly/yearly subscriptions; pay-per-article; day-passes; and time-on-site charging.

Some 43 percent of those who said they would charge believed they would provide a set of alternative buying methods for readers, rather than inisisting on one model.

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