I've been having an email debate concerning newspaper business models with the David Carr of the NY Times for PBS' MediaShift, which I believe will be published later this week, so I won't reveal too much now. However, the key points are that Carr believes paywalls/micropayments make sense and I don't. We've gone back and forth on it, and I think it's been quite an interesting discussion, but one key point that I keep trying to make is that Carr seems to think enough people will pay to make such things a viable model. I have trouble believing this, and some recent research (highlighted by Steve Outing) suggests that many newspaper execs have a stunningly large disconnect
between how they think
readers will react to paywalls, and how readers themselves actually say they'd react to paywalls:
If you can't see that image clearly (you can click on it to get a larger image), newspaper execs believe that if they took down their web content, 75% of readers would switch to the paper version of the newspaper. Meanwhile, readers who were asked the same question had only 30% saying they would go to paper sources. Above that? 68% said they'd go to other local sources first. 45% said television. 37% said other regional/national online publications. 35% said radio. I believe a key point of disagreement between Carr and I reflects this same sort of issue. Carr suggests that there aren't many outlets for people to go to if the newspapers walled up. I argued that there are an immense number of options -- and they're growing daily. The problem is if you think of the market as being "newspapers" or "sources that people go to for news." I believe that it's the latter. Many newspaper people seem to think it's the former.