The Road Ahead – Pay Walls

The push for pay walls guarding publishers’ content is gaining momentum world wide. Springer, publisher of Bild, Europe’s largest daily paper, joins Rupert Murdoch who promises to start charging to access his outlets around the globe. The $15 billon, 44% drop, in U.S, newspaper advertising over the first three quarters of 2009, as compared with the same period in 2006, has many large U.S. newspapers evaluating ways to charge for their digital offerings. (The trade Variety put up a pay wall this week). The Road Ahead: December 2009: Pay Walls are starting to go up to access news sites.

Photo By: Zsuzsanna Kiliani

Springer’s plan, as described by New York Times writer Eric Pfanner, would have publishers and internet companies working together to create a “one-click marketplace solution” where Google and other Internet gateways would display links to content as they do now, but some of the items would include something new, a price tag.” Conditioning consumers to an online newsstand could mean a return to glory for digital auto magazines and their writers. Those that sell, prosper, those that don’t won’t.

A hitch in that plan is the amount of “free” information available provided by Google or other aggregators. The Germans would expand copyright laws to include excerpts as well as complete articles. To charges that it is “stealing content” Google has responded with what writer Clint Boulton describes as “an olive branch to newspaper publishers” – letting them limit the number of articles readers can view for free on Google News to five per day.” As to its search engine and excerpts, Google notes that publishers are free to de-list from its search engine if they are willing to forgo their take from link traffic generated by Google searches, currently at 100,000 clicks per minute. And, the sales boost for their advertisers from articles consumers read.

A recent Opinion Research Survey reported by The Center for Media Research, reveals American consumers say articles that include brand information are the type of online advertising they’re most likely to read and act upon, compared to banner ads, pop-up ads, email offers or sponsored links – more good news for auto writers. On the other hand, research as to the willingness of consumers to pay for content suggests they are not. Or, at best, they’ll not pay very much unless it is information they cannot get elsewhere for free. This raises the question of the quality of the free information available and the appraisal of Springer’s public affairs officer, Christoph Keese, as quoted by Pfanner, “A highly industrialized world cannot survive on rumors. It needs quality journalism, and that costs money.”

Another approach to quality is journalists’ crowd-sourcing. Advertising Age writer Simon Dumenco reports Mother Jones is now spearheading a potentially revolutionary cooperative reporting venture that will bring together, starting with a kick-off meeting this month, of a half a dozen or more journalistic organizations to examine climate change in depth. Google Labs is developing a “Living Story” format for journalists to collaboratively update a story on one URL. A concept that could be applied to auto writers although the most promising avenue is the marketers refrain that “engagement,” the ability to interact with and build consumer involvement is the essence of online communications, as exemplified by the explosive growth of social media. Or, as Seth Kaufman, director of media strategy for PepsiCo North America, is quoted by Karl Greenberg in Marketing Daily “…now the deer have guns; it’s no longer about brands controlling the conversation. The old world of marketing was about badge value, and agency creative. Now it’s about deep emotional connection.”

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Don Bain

    As the broadcast media have been watered down with outlets that reject objectivity and blatantly pursue their own political spin, so the internet is being turned to journalistic tofu by writers whose only qualification is passion about the subject. The internet is just like the world – confusing and misleading.

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