Wait… Wouldn't Micropayments Be Bad For Journalism?
from the how-much-did-you-earn... dept
It’s been funny watching newspaper execs and journalists go on and on and on about how important it is to “save journalism” and then come up with plans that will likely hasten the demise of newspapers — such as micropayments. We’ve discussed in great detail why micropayments are unlikely to work (they’ve pretty much failed everywhere they’ve been tried with news content), but Kevin points us to an argument that shows why micropayments would likely be a terrible thing for journalists as well. When you have a direct association between revenue and a particular article, then suddenly it becomes possible to determine quite specifically how much people are willing to pay for a certain journalist’s articles. Thus, management now has incentive to reward journalists who get more people to pay — meaning those journalists have every incentive in the world to try to come up with stories that will make people pay, which might not be “good journalism.”
Of course, some will (and have) pointed out that there’s already some of this done, with tracking of advertising revenue on certain articles, but this would be even more direct — and the key point is that it leads to trying to maximize the experience of a single article, rather than the entire experience:
An article is worth far more than the number of direct sales it generates. Even more importantly, thinking of each article in isolation shortchanges the value of the publishing enterprise as a whole. There are many things that make the New York Times better than the Podunk Daily, but “readable articles per day” is the least of them. (Which means that in addition to being bad for consumers and journalists, by destroying brand value micropayments would also hurt publishers. The trifecta!)
In fact, in this hour of crisis, newspapers should be moving in the exact opposite direction to generate revenue — focusing not on specific articles, but rather on delivering valuable experiences to their readers, whether that takes the form of articles, databases, multimedia, user-generated content, or whatever else will serve the audience’s needs. It is the entirety of that experience that will deliver goodwill and revenue opportunities down the road.