FTW Media

Thoughts about New/Social Media

So, you wanna charge for content?

with 4 comments

Whenever the topic of charging for content crops up, industry folks will invariably cite the WSJ.com as proof that it can work. The key thing is that it’s got to be niche content that people are willing to pay for (e.g. financial news). Or so the myth goes.

I say it’s a myth because there’s a whole lot more to it than just offering valuable print content online. Founding editor of WSJ.com Neil Budde offers some invaluable insights into the extreme value they bundled with the WSJ.com subsription:

All of our work went into creating such a valuable subscription package. We knew, for instance, that we’d need to incorporate more than just the news from the print Wall Street Journal. Yes, as Crovitz and Tofel suggested, that content alone has value and is differentiated. But we knew that it alone would not make a compelling enough product online.

* We fought hard within Dow Jones to include a substantial portion of the real-time Dow Jones News Service, for which stock brokers pay $500/year per terminal.

* We lobbied to include reasonable archival content, for which another Dow Jones business unit might have charged another several hundred dollars a year.

* We maintained a sizable 24×7 newsroom to keep the site updated around the clock and to provide extensive editorially curated links from stories to related content.

* We also licensed and integrated into the product databases of corporate information, advanced stock charting capabilities and other useful and valuable features that added to the convenience of online access.

*We allowed users to customize their pages to show the news they want to follow.

When we launched the product, we charged only $49/year for all of this value and worked like mad to convince people it was worth even that modest subscription price.

We also were in an endless “arms race” to keep adding functionality and improving the product to make it more useful and valuable to subscribers and worth more than free offerings.

Even today, they charge only $100/year for all of the features and functionality and a bundle of information worth close to $1,000/year in other formats.


Written by Oon Yeoh

April 24, 2009 at 2:09 am

Posted in New Media

4 Responses

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  1. Here’s a thought: perhaps one day, nobody will pay for news anymore. You want news? Go online. Get it free. Read it on Twitter. Some people have stopped paying, but a large majority still purchase a paper everyday.

    However, people will pay for valuable and insightful perspective and opinions. e.g. the Economist.

    If and when that day comes, what will happen to papers like The Star and NST who have literally duplicating news on both publications? What will happen to “reporters”, who have no journalism skills.

    Ben Israel

    April 24, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    • Well, most people do get their news for free on the web. It’s the printed product that they are paying for. In time, the printed version will go the way of the dodo bird and be replaced by something like Amazon’s Kindle.

      Will there still be a subscription for news delivered to devices? Maybe but probably not. After all, radio is free and terrestrial TV is free (though satellite TV is not). Ad-supported news is probably the way to go.

      There will always be economist.com and WSJ.com that will charge but the bulk of them will find ways to monetize through ads – ways that are more effective than now.


      April 25, 2009 at 10:23 am

  2. My point is. People won’t just pay for just news reports anymore. I can get it on blogs, news portals, twitter, youtube, broadcast, etc. I don’t need straight reporting of events and happenings.

    What people will still pay for, in whatever form – print or digital, is opinions. Publications that cannot offer opinions will suffer. Publications that just reprint news releases will not survive. Reporters will go extinct, journalist will strive.

    Ben Israel

    April 25, 2009 at 7:03 pm

  3. I agree that people will pay for opinions and analysis, and not news streams.

    For all the content that is out there now, one would be surprised that there is still a bulk of unique content that is not yet available. And the work behind producing these “undiscovered” content still costs more than what people will pay for, no matter the monetization plan or how large the subscriber base is. It’s all about investing as far as establishing an online paid content service is concerned. Profit still has got to come from elsewhere.

    Goh I

    April 28, 2009 at 11:22 am

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