News Corp. Digital Boss Says Free Doesn't Work, Doesn't Bother To Explain How Pay Will Work
from the good-luck dept
A bunch of folks have been sending in various versions of the fact that News Corps. digital media boss Jon Miller apparently said that “free doesn’t work,” though that isn’t quite what he actually said. He said that ad-supported content doesn’t work. Now, it may be true that he’s making the (false) assumption that the only way to make money off of free content is advertising, but that’s not the same as saying “free” doesn’t work. Either way, I’d argue he’s wrong. Ad supported free content has been shown for ages to work in various different ways if you do it right. Perhaps the problem is that he’s not doing it right. Either way, his suggestions for where News Corp. is heading don’t sound very promising:
“It’s pretty clear that there has to be some recognition of value,” said Jon Miller…. Miller noted that Web companies will have to figure out a way to charge consumers for content they have grown accustomed to getting for free, noting that cable television service providers learned how to charge for television shows. Miller also said he expected to see the rise of Internet micro-payments.
If there’s one nearly universal truth out there, it’s that you can never go back to charging for content people were used to getting for free. You may be able to charge for new content or services, but never what they’re already used to getting for free.
But the real root of the problem is Miller’s opening statement. That there needs “to be some recognition of value.” There is a recognition of value. Otherwise people wouldn’t consume your content. But that doesn’t mean they’ll pay for it. Notice what he doesn’t say. He never says that they need to give people a reason to buy. He’s talking about putting up a paywall, not providing a reason to buy. That’s destined to fail.
The reason that cable providers learned to charge for television shows was because there was a scarcity there… and even then there’s a big push to break out of that and move to free television shows online as well. Trying to cram the internet into that dying model sounds like a terrible idea.
The most ironic thing about all of this is that, if anyone should understand all of this, it’s Jon Miller. After all, he was the one who realized that AOL’s walled gardens were killing the company, and put in place its strategy of opening up and going free. So now he wants to do the opposite for Fox Interactive? Good luck!