Tuesday, August 11, 2009...3:25 pm

The newspaper online pay-wall debate rages on…

Jump to Comments

…largely in the comments section to my post a couple of days ago, oddly enough.
Soilman points me to an interesting article in the Telegraph about Swedish peer-to-peer site The Pirate Bay and the general unwillingness of consumers to pay for content these days.
Here’s what the Telegraph thinks:

Why won’t consumers pay for content? The answer is very simple. Consumers have been so spoilt by free content over the last fifteen years that they now take it for granted that content should be free.

Uh, yes. Those selfish, thoughtless consumers.
Well, actually – in more specific economic terms – the cost of publication and the barriers to entry are so low that there is a vast supply of content. And that means consumers are just shopping in a media mall where everything is at bargain basement, loss-leader prices. Of zero, mostly. 
Attempts to choke off that supply and so create artificial scarcity – a bit like De Beers and the diamond trade – are doomed to failure because there’s just so much stuff out there to read. 
And I loved this bit:

At a certain moment in the not too distant future, consumers will finally have to acknowledge their own guilt in the destruction of our paid culture. 

Yeah. Sure. That‘ll happen…


  • In the pre-internet age, it was difficult to be an informed, smart citizen in a democracy if you never read a newspaper. Not impossible, but difficult. Because as you say, Simon, publishing was pricey and complicated and newspapers were all there was. We had to read them. We weren’t consciously choosing from real alternatives.
    Journalists and newspaper publishers mistook this ‘customer-as-hostage’ scenario as a vote of confidence from readers exercising a free will choice.
    The awful truth?
    Very, very few people ever actually wanted newspapers – at least, not in the format around which they all generally coalesced (and which the newspapers, with only a few honourable exceptions, have largely taken over into their online products). If they did, they’d still be paying for them.
    I know this is spectacularly hard to accept if you’re in the business. I still struggle with it. But on a reading of the facts, I don’t see how a thoughtful person can come to another conclusion.

  • I like this from Mashable: http://mashable.com/2009/07/16/free-price/
    It explains that ‘free’ isn’t just about the price- it’s about the user experience too.
    It also says that paywalls will not work until someone finds something that’s convenient and quick to pay with. People aren’t averse to paying for content- a lot of the time, we’re averse to getting up, getting our wallet, typing in numbers and going through a multi-page payment process.

  • Just realised you’ve already done a post on that (http://freelanceunbound.wordpress.com/2009/07/16/why-free-is-not-just-about-the-money/)
    Sorry. Haha.

  • No problem – the Mashable piece is well worth reading and I’m glad it has struck other people as a good argument…

Leave a Reply