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Pay for online news survey

Posted by Michael Bloch in ecommerce (Monday April 5, 2010 )

CNN is running a poll at the moment asking people if they would pay to read their news on the web. Over 7500 people have responded so far and you can guess what the majority think. However, there may be some method to the madness behind the news site pay wall concept.

Of the 7583 people who have voted on the CNN poll at the time of writing, 7150 people have said no, so around 95%.

The survey question only offers two options as answers. Looking at the comments, it’s possible more than 5% would pay for online news under certain circumstances.

Let’s say it’s just 5% who would – would it still be worth it? I haven’t crunched any figures to try to determine how much people would have to pay to make it worthwhile.

One of the important points repeated in the comments was along the lines of “not unless all news sites went that way”.

Now lets say all the major ones did. This now creates an interesting scenario.

Bloggers and minor news sites would need to get their news from somewhere. So, they would probably sign up for a few of these “pay” news sites.

When blogging, they would quote or rewrite from the major news site, being careful to stay within “fair use” guidelines (as grey as those can be) so the major news sites don’t set their lawyers onto them. I have no doubt that the pay wall news sites would start up huge sections of their business dedicated just to chasing and prosecuting copyright breaches.

The bloggers and others would still reference the source – which would lead people who wanted to learn more about the story straight to a pay-wall. A pay wall just blocks access to a webpage with a window requiring payment, or perhaps a free trial.

Suddenly, thousands of bloggers and minor news sites become unpaid affiliates of the major news sites; referring them new accounts.

Maybe Rupert Murdoch isn’t so silly after all. I’m not saying the above is necessarily what he has in mind, but I can see that happening.

Good thing? Bad thing? Or just a thing? Who knows at this point – but major news sites putting up a pay wall may really change the relationship between bloggers, Rupert and those major content sites who follow him. Mr Murdoch may no longer see those that “steal” content as parasites, but business partners.


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