Notice That Murdoch Is Only Talking About Charging For Content… Not Giving People A Reason To Buy

from the good-luck-with-that dept

Yesterday, The Daily Beast “leaked” the news that Rupert Murdoch had a “secret plan” to start charging for content, and today the news is all over the mainstream press, as Murdoch officially announced the plan. Of course, I’m not sure why people think this is a surprise. Murdoch basically made it clear this was his plan a month ago (oddly totally contradicting his own statements from a year and a half ago, where he talked about how much more money you could make from free content).

Still, if you want to know why this (like pretty much ever other plan to charge for news) will fail, just look at the language Murdoch (and others who insist on charging) are saying. They talk about the fundamental “value” of content. But they never talk about actually increasing the value or giving the community a reason to pay. Instead, they seem to think that the content, by itself, is somehow reason enough. However, you can bet that the management at competing news publications around the globe are suddenly gleeful over the idea that Murdoch is about to take his publications out of competition for a large amount of advertising dollars. As soon as Murdoch puts up a pay wall, and traffic drops, that’ll make it just that much easier for competitors offering free content to build up both audience and advertising revenue. Meanwhile, Murdoch will discover that some people certainly will pay, but that it’ll be tough to grow that revenue stream at any significant rate.

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Comments on “Notice That Murdoch Is Only Talking About Charging For Content… Not Giving People A Reason To Buy”

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KGWagner (profile) says:

Watch out for the charging scapegoat

I agree that putting up a paywall is going to fail, but that’s not what will be blamed. Google, Yahoo!, MS Live, et al will charged with it.

What will be funny is the search engines and aggregators will send him a great deal of traffic, but people will be turned away at the gate, and eventually stop hitting his site(s). If those helpful services are smart, they’ll keep track of how many hits are passed his way, so they can compare that to how many subscribers he actually signs. Then we’ll see who’s doing what and how successfully.

Hank Ross says:

They will have to begin charging readers for content at some point, in my opinion. It just seems ridiculous that I can read the paper free online but have to pay for a print copy. To keep high-quality reporting and writing, they have to pay decent salaries. To mountain quality, they simply have to start charging.Look for the Newspaper Shakeout’s Likely Survivors

Everybody always talks like the quote above. But the marginal costs of hosting text on a website is close to zero. I’m not even sure if the 75cents, or if you read the NYT 2 dollars, you pay to read the print copy even covers the cost of paper, ink, printing presses, electricity for the press and warehouse, gasoline for trucks, pay and benefits for people printing and delivering said paper.

The money has always come from the advertising. And the only reason they could make money on that is because they had a local monopoly due to all the startup and running costs of a having a printing press and local distribution.

I mean this has been going on for decades. Every city used to have multiple newspaper companies with morning, afternoon, and evening editions. Over time a technology came along and made some part of a newspaper obsoloete. Radio and TV killed the need for afternoon and evening editions of newspapers. And with that the revenue to sustain more than one newspaper per city. The remainders either merged or closed down.

The web has finally killed the morning paper. So what? The newspaper is just a technology. A means to an end.

Newspapers were never about news anyway. They were about classifieds, sports scores, stock prices, movie times, public notices and other similar things. (There’s a word for those things that I can’t remember right now. It has to do with the fact that they printed them in text smaller than the regular paper to fit more information per page.)

Matt says:

Why are newspapers dying?

Newspapers are great, if you want your news a day late. I can pick up the important news in real time on the web, so why would I want to spend time reading news that is already old?

They say they need to bring in more money to keep the high-quality reporting. I say the high-quality reporting died a long time ago when they decided to fill the papers with AP newswire stories that I can get anywhere.

Craigslist just plain killed the classifieds section, as well it should have. Gee, instantly available to be searched, and giving people a way to actually find what they want quickly? What a concept…

If I pay for content, what value do you give me that I cannot get elsewhere? (sound of crickets)… Yeah, that’s what I thought.

alternatives() (user link) says:

Good on him

Let him. FOX as a media source is dead to me technologically when TV goes HD (as I am opting to not bother for the 2-3 hours a week the set is on. I’m betting I’ll be able to download anything interesting or others will hold onto a copy and show it to me if “important”).

As for the ‘newsworthiness’ – its not like the ‘news’ sold out is, well, news.

The following remarks were apparently made by John Swinton in 1880, then the preeminent New York journalist, probably one night in during that same year. Swinton was the guest of honour at a banquet given him by the leaders of his craft. Someone who knew neither the press nor Swinton offered a toast to the independent press. Swinton outraged his colleagues by replying:

“There is no such thing, at this date of the world’s history, in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it.

“There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone.

“The business of the journalists is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it, and what folly is this toasting an independent press?

“We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.”

(Source: Labor’s Untold Story, by Richard O. Boyer and Herbert M. Morais, published by United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America, NY, 1955/1979.)
(A special thanks to what I call “wack job radio” – AKA the podcasts of others who are trying to use rhetoric to convince me that they are right. History is filled with things like the above – finding ’em is the problem)

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