Understanding The Paywall Mindset In 140 Characters

from the concise-brilliance dept

We've been arguing for a while -- often in great detail -- that a newspaper paywall doesn't give anyone a reason to buy. There's no added value and the competition is massive. Just setting up a paywall doesn't mean that people will suddenly rush to give you money. But, for all the long essays on the subject, I don't think the concept could be summed up any better than Jay Rosen's short twitter message simplifying the issue:
Journalist: hey, I made a snowman.
Inuit: nice!
Journalist: it took me all day.
Inuit: what's your point?
Journalist: that'll be five bucks.
It's not how nice the content is. It's not how long it took or even how much money it cost. It's understanding the basics of how a market functions. Demanding money without providing additional scarce value, in a market where the competition is plentiful and free is as much of a non-starter as the journalist's demands in the tweet.
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Filed Under: jay rosen, journalism, paywalls


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  • identicon
    Pete Austin, 4 Sep 2009 @ 5:35am

    Also photographers

    Photographer: hey, I took a photo of you.
    Inuit: can I have some money?
    Photographer: no. I can photo you for free
    Inuit: can I copy your photo then?
    Photographer: that'll be five bucks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Breakfast (profile), 4 Sep 2009 @ 7:29am

      Re: Also photographers

      Nice

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Matt Tate (profile), 4 Sep 2009 @ 9:00am

      Re: Also photographers

      Label Exec: Hey, we made hundreds of millions of dollars off your hit album, "Inuit Life"
      Inuit: Sweet, can I have my cut?
      Label Exec: No, that's our money.
      Inuit: Well I'll just download the songs for myself.
      Label Exec: That'll be 1,920,000 bucks.

      I smell a new meme brewing...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sheinen, 4 Sep 2009 @ 5:45am

    Dude,

    The basic point is that people will not pay for something they can get for free elsewhere.

    Photography is different in that you have created a unique image that cannot necesarily be replicated elsewhere and certainly not for free. There are too many people offering the same stories for nothing, in the same format.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Jason (profile), 4 Sep 2009 @ 7:55am

      Re:

      Dude, I think the point is that the photographer gets to copy his unique image for free and then turn around and charge him if he wants a copy of the copy of his image. Dig?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Derek Kerton (profile), 4 Sep 2009 @ 12:25pm

      Re:

      Right! And there's only, like, 50 photos in the world right now, and none are available for free, and you can't replicate a photo for free, so your point totally holds water.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Sep 2009 @ 5:55am

    Mike, discrediting newspapers will not make bloggers more popular for the simple reason that bloggers are (mostly) unknown wannabes that copy/paste articles from online papers. Rarely is there a blogger with factual exclusive content about something interesting.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Marcel de Jong (profile), 4 Sep 2009 @ 6:04am

      Re:

      Exclusivity is overrated.
      Yes it's nice to scoop, but if you are the only one reporting on it, it hardly seems newsworthy.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Sep 2009 @ 6:28am

      Re:

      "Mike, discrediting newspapers will not make bloggers more popular for the simple reason that bloggers are (mostly) unknown wannabes that copy/paste articles from online papers. Rarely is there a blogger with factual exclusive content about something interesting."

      I guess the problem is that newspapers and mainstream media provides bloggers with content by fabricating so much inaccurate nonsense ( http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090903/1323116097.shtml ) that bloggers can spend an entire eternity correcting all the fabricated nonsense that newspapers make up. This is good content, correcting all the made up news that newspapers make up just so they can have something to talk about, fake news that no one would otherwise blog about because it doesn't really exist, so there really is nothing to talk about, outside the imagination of newspapers. But yeah, newspapers make up news and that gives us something to talk about, correcting the fabricated news.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Sean T Henry (profile), 4 Sep 2009 @ 6:37am

        Re: Re:

        "fake news that no one would otherwise blog about because it doesn't really exist"

        I think the Onion is doing great.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 4 Sep 2009 @ 6:42am

          Re: Re: Re:

          at least the Onion admits that it's satire, whereas in newspapers they're pretending that their fabricated news is real which is exactly why we blog about it (to correct them).

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Dark Helmet (profile), 4 Sep 2009 @ 6:40am

      Re:

      "Mike, discrediting newspapers will not make bloggers more popular..."

      Oooooh, a zero-sum person! I've heard about you guys, I've just never met anyone stupid enough to actually BELIEVE in the zero-sum thing. Who cares if blogs as a whole are more popular? The game here isn't taking readership away from the papers. In fact, in many cases, blogs are directing traffic TO the papers.

      "for the simple reason that bloggers are (mostly) unknown wannabes that copy/paste articles from online papers"

      Well, in the rare occasions that they are copying and pasting some SNIPPETS from the articles, and usually linking back to them btw, you forgot to point out that they are then spending half a page correcting all of the innaccuracies within.

      "Rarely is there a blogger with factual exclusive content about something interesting."

      Absolutely true. Now replace the word "blogger" with "newspaper" and tell me if there is any difference. Go ahead, I'll wait....

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Lowerison (profile), 4 Sep 2009 @ 7:00am

        Go ahead I'll Wait.

        Awesome.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Sep 2009 @ 7:02am

        Re: Re:

        "Well, in the rare occasions that they are copying and pasting some SNIPPETS from the articles, and usually linking back to them btw, you forgot to point out that they are then spending half a page correcting all of the innaccuracies within."

        This is exactly why I visit blogs, because mainstream media is so darn inaccurate and one sided and bias (ie: with pro intellectual property nonsense) that I go to blogs for correctness and balance. If mainstream media was more accurate and balanced I wouldn't need blogs so much. But as of now everyone pretty much knows that mainstream media is nothing but a sad joke.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Dark Helmet (profile), 4 Sep 2009 @ 7:51am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "This is exactly why I visit blogs, because mainstream media is so darn inaccurate and one sided and bias (ie: with pro intellectual property nonsense) that I go to blogs for correctness and balance."

          And that's what the corporate owned newsmedia doesn't understand: it's not tha we don't NEED them, we don't WANT them.

          For years and years and years, corporate owned media has modeled itself as some kind of watchdog agency. Nevermind the fact that ABC News refused to run stories about sexual harrasment lawsuits at Disney Land (ABC is owned by Disney). Forget the fact that you can't FIND a mainstream report on the Bilderburger meetings (attended by such esteemed watchdog newsmen as Dan Rather, Ted Koppel, etc.). Forget the fact that major news outlets have become mere conduits for the "official" line, from WMDs in Iraq, to the alliance to elect our first American President, to the odd choice of words used to describe the citizens of Iraq, that choice depending entirely on the day of the week and the goal of the citizen.

          I mean, for a long time the duplicitous doublespeak coming from "reporters" was discussed around dinner tables, because there were no other choices and no major public outlets in which to hold these idiots feet to the fire. I remember sitting around my family dinner table and/or television and listening to my parents, who were politically informed and active, rail against the sensatinalism and innaccuracies reported on the "news".

          Sorry guys, those days are over. I don't need you to tell me what is going on in Iran. Why? Because I can get the story from a bunch of people who are THERE, who are EXPERIENCING what you would only be able to REPORT on.

          Good fucking riddance, you mouthpiece cowards....

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Trails, 4 Sep 2009 @ 7:54am

      Re: Oh the fallacies. Let's examine shall we?

      "Mike, discrediting newspapers will not make bloggers more popular"

      I'm pretty sure that's not Mike's goal. Unless this whole techdirt thing is some pseudo-80's-high-school-movie scheme to win prom king. Mike's point is to discuss the irrationality of paywalls. He seems to be doing a pretty good job, whereas you seem intent on getting into a popularity match.

      "for the simple reason that bloggers are (mostly) unknown wannabes"

      And journalists are all superstars? I can name maybe 0.1% of North American journalists, most people it's probably the same.

      "that copy/paste articles from online papers"
      We've seen plenty of instances of journalists regurgitating unchecked nonsense, adding little no value, and often result in propagating lies. That sword cuts both ways.

      "Rarely is there a blogger with factual exclusive content about something interesting."
      Really? Are you sure? My experience is that "scoops" come from journalists and bloggers alike. Unless you care to back this up?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Sep 2009 @ 8:26am

      Re:

      Here is an example of a blogger putting years into investigating something and the mainstream media simply copying and pasting the story without giving the blogger any credit whatsoever.

      http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090823/1712315969.shtml

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Derek Kerton (profile), 4 Sep 2009 @ 12:36pm

      Re:

      "Mike, discrediting newspapers"
      -- not the goal of Techdirt, if it happens it is as a result of reporting on their own actions;

      "will not make bloggers more popular"
      -- not the goal of Techdirt. Is it the goal of newspapers to make themselves more popular by dissing on blogs...wait it actually is! Hypocrite;

      "for the simple reason that bloggers are (mostly) unknown wannabes"
      -- true, but still entirely irrelevant. Some are quite popular, most are not. The number of popular bloggers probably is in the same ballpark as the number of known, popular columnists, but once again, so what?;

      "that copy/paste articles from online papers"
      -- a broad, sweeping accusation which deliberaely omits the fact that good bloggers add some value even when they paste, moreover most good bloggers write as much fresh material in their articles as pro reporters, and any that just copy/paste have no audience and aren't really bloggers;

      "Rarely is there a blogger with factual exclusive content about something interesting."
      -- patently incorrect. As a percentage, most blogging is not "a scoop", but the volume of blog content is quite high, so there actually IS freqently "a blogger with factual exclusive content about something interesting";

      I'll look forward to reading more of your work at your "Completely Wrong On Every Point Blog".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Sep 2009 @ 3:01pm

        Re: Re:

        and here is another example of mainstream media parasiting off of blogs, even off a satire story.

        http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090904/1203456111.shtml

        and yet another example.

        http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090904/0416086107.shtml

        NY Post and NY Daily seem to even have a policy not to give credit to bloggers when stealing their stories, yet they get mad at bloggers by claiming that they parasite off of them and that they steal their stories when bloggers are far more likely to give credit when they write their stories (especially since bloggers don't tend to have a policy of not giving credit), though bloggers often use mainstream media stories just for the purpose of correcting their inaccuracies.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    David Griffin (profile), 4 Sep 2009 @ 6:01am

    A good paywall CAN add value

    A micropayment scheme that offered me crowdsourced ratings from people like me on content I was about to click through to would save all the minutes spent reading frustratingly crap new stories. But that is not technically possible unless there are very few different systems or else they agree to a common interface which all news stories publish to.

    This is why Amazon is a better shopping experience for me than just any old place that happens to sell the same thing for the same price.
    Many people do not know (and may not care) whether google search results are better because google have a better algorithm or because they are personalised using the users previous search history. It just needs to be better.

    If I (say) like the liberal bias on Huff Post then they are adding value for me by bringing together all the stuff I might like to read.

    The crowdsourced ratings system would basically ask the question "was reading that story worth the 2.3 minutes of your time that it took to read it." not "was it worth the $0.001 you paid". After all, even at minimum wage a minute is worth $0.10. People must place SOME value on not having their time wasted.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Trails, 4 Sep 2009 @ 8:11am

      Re: A good paywall CAN add value

      But that is not technically possible unless there are very few different systems"
      There aren't many different systems.

      " or else they agree to a common interface which all news stories publish to.
      Yeah, that's not going to happen.

      A "crowdsourced rating system" is not sufficient value to merit a paywall, Digg, and many others, do it for free. It is by no means scarce, either.

      And if major news sites implemented that, someone else would come along and offer it... FOR FREE. Paywall sites fall down, go boom. Big boom. Big bada boom.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Yogi, 4 Sep 2009 @ 6:12am

    LOL

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Allen (profile), 4 Sep 2009 @ 6:40am

    I don't think that it needs to be 'additional scarce value' it just needs to be additional value. The real problem with the paywall crowd is that they over value their product.

    Try selling premium pork sausages in Tel Aviv. No matter how scrumptious the sausage, you've misread the market and this is exactly what the paywall crowd have done. No doubt there is a niche market for pork sausage in Tel Aviv, but expecting your local rabii to chow down on your product - even if it is a really #ucking good sausage is unrealistic and misguided.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Dark Helmet (profile), 4 Sep 2009 @ 6:43am

      Re:

      "Try selling premium pork sausages in Tel Aviv"

      I can't tell you how hard that made me laugh...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Derek Kerton (profile), 4 Sep 2009 @ 1:00pm

        Re: Re:

        It could work. How "premium" are we talking, here?

        "Well, we'd have to be talkin' about one charming motherfucking pig. I mean, he'd have to be ten times more charming than that Arnold on Green Acres, you know what I'm saying?"

        Personality goes a long way.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Trails, 4 Sep 2009 @ 8:15am

      Re: Competition

      It's more about competition.

      If I'm in a market at a stall, selling beads for $0.10 each, and someone else in the market is selling them for $0.05 each, I will have very poor business.

      If news sites put up paywalls, and other sites (blogs, aggregators, new news startups) offer news for free, no one will pay.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Sep 2009 @ 6:47am

    Inuits in Barbados

    The use of an Inuit in this example makes it look as though the task of making the snowman was trivial and carries no value. If the Inuit was on holiday in Barbados enjoying hot weather, the act of making a snowman would be non-trivial and would require skill and planning. While it's fair to say that I wouldn't personally pay for a snowman, it would be nice to have an ice sculpture prepared for a wedding ceremony. This would carry value and would be otherwise difficult to obtain.

    Now compare to a breaking story in North Korea. A news organisation will need to have made a considerable effort to get people on the ground or in a position to report the news in the first place. These people will need to be supported by technology and infrastructure that allow the story to be reported.

    The business of collecting the news carries a cost that needs to be paid for. A paywall is one method of meeting these costs. It's not great but we should recognise that news costs money. There are alternative methods of paying for the news which have commonly included advertising. In the current climate, advertising revenue has dried up and options like paywalls are considered.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Jason (profile), 4 Sep 2009 @ 8:29am

      Re: Inuits in Barbados

      "that needs to be paid for"

      You newspaper guys keep saying that!

      And we keep pointing out that this is THE big error in thinking.

      And you keep thinking it's just because we want everything for free.

      And we keep saying no, but you DO have to give us a reason to want to buy.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Hulser (profile), 4 Sep 2009 @ 9:26am

      Re: Inuits in Barbados

      The business of collecting the news carries a cost that needs to be paid for. A paywall is one method of meeting these costs. It's not great but we should recognise that news costs money.

      The traditional method of collecting the news costs money. No one is arguing that point. The question is how it should be paid for. Yes, a paywall is a model for trying to recoup these costs. However, the point that Mike is making is that it's a model doomed to failure. While a paywall may allow you to make some money in the short term, given the availability of news from other sources, in the long term, you just end up shrinking your audience.

      In short, if you build a paywall, it means that eventually you'll be the only person inside the wall.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Mike, 4 Sep 2009 @ 4:15pm

      Re: Inuits in Barbados

      "Now compare to a breaking story in North Korea. A news organisation will need to have made a considerable effort to get people on the ground or in a position to report the news in the first place. These people will need to be supported by technology and infrastructure that allow the story to be reported."

      See, that's the really nice snowman. While you guys are setting up your fancy technology and infrastructure, I'll just read Twitter.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    wirtes (profile), 4 Sep 2009 @ 6:58am

    Dead On

    You're dead on with this. Newspapers are only in this pickle because they don't understand how their market is changing.

    It's an entire industry whose leaders are in denial. These are the death throes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jason, 4 Sep 2009 @ 6:59am

    "The basic point is that people will not pay for something they can get for free elsewhere."

    lol I download everything for free if I like it I buy it on vinyl. My record collection can attest to that (and my bank account)

    I buy more media for things I can get for free.

    http://www.quoteunquoterecords.com/

    ask them if people pay for what they can get for free...since its all "free"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Sheinen, 4 Sep 2009 @ 7:23am

      Re:

      Every rule has it's exception - you're a collector. I collect movies - OK, I can get them for free, but if it's good I'll buy it.

      Who, other than hungry hobo's collects news articles?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Trails, 4 Sep 2009 @ 8:17am

      Re: Different products

      The comparison of digital music and vinyl records is apples and oranges.

      Would you pay for digital music?

      The vinyl is both scarce, and has additional value to you, hence you pay.

      Vinyl is scarce, but has no additional value to me, evidenced by the fact that I own no vinyl.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Nicholas Overstreet (profile), 4 Sep 2009 @ 8:47am

    Idiocracy

    I like money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bobwyzguy, 5 Sep 2009 @ 5:41am

    I Pay For Delivery - ONLY!!!

    Jeez if any of the ding dongs that run the major newspapers would only read your stuff. Here in Minneapolis the board of the Star Trib pulled some old fossil out of mothballs to run the Star Tribune because he successfully got people to pay for the Wall Street Journal. Good luck. As I have said in the past - when I pick up a pare at the news stand - I pay for delivery of that paper to the stand, and a reasonable profit for the vendor - NOT FOR CONTENT. That is paid for by the advertisers. When I pay for a subscription - I pay for delivery to my door, not for content. Since I pay Comcast over $50 for my highspeed connection - I have already paid for delivery of the on-line news.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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