Journalism is preoccupied with one particular issue right now: money and how to make some! It’s a thought ticking over in everyone’s brains…Will people pay for content?
I don’t think we’ve had one guest lecturer that hasn’t relayed to us just how scary this time is for journalists, with newspapers shutting and jobs a-dwindling. Who hasn’t touched on the paid content debate?
Central to the whole pay wall issue is Mr Murdoch. He sure is a man on a mission, keen to squeeze cash out of the not-too-profit-friendly internet by introducing pay walls to all of his News Corp. papers. I can’t say I blame the man, someone has to give it a bash, but will it work? Only time will tell if this is the answer to our journalistic woes.
One of our CJS alumni, Robert Andrews paid a visit to Cardiff chat to us all about his thoughts and findings about pay walls. As editor of PaidContent:UK he had a fair amount of knowledge on the subject. PaidContent:UK and Harris Poll conducted a survey investigating all of these burning questions into whether people might be willing to cough up for online news. Most of the results where indeed as we’d expect, depressing stats with people basically not prepared to pay, and those who would were tightening up the purse strings over how much they would pay.**(see bottom of page)
Recent findings have suggested that maybe people will pay if they can do so in micropayments. This makes sense. although while lot of people are loyal to a newspaper brand, many others like a bit of a pick and mix in regards to news.
However, there was one interesting, a positive finding: a large majority of people said they might actually consider paying if there was a free paper or discount included in the price. A glimmer of hope that there may be some kind of answer out there?
This then led one of us to ask if maybe everyone starting charging online this would push people back to buying good old fashioned print – a fair suggestion. Surely if people had to pay online they would soon start to crave something tangible. But hey! you can never speak on behalf of people – what would you do?
Andrews asked the room who would pay for news online if they had no choice of free sites? Most hands went up – promising perhaps? (although this was a room of wannabe journalists who live sleep and breath news.)
Surely if all quality brands charged for online content we’d be more inclined to spend money on news. I mean blogs are great and all that, but sometimes you just need that familiar brand for reassurance. Imagine a world where all the news you read was literally written by the guy next door, would you trust it? It’s great to get hold of breaking stories online, such as from a tweet or wikileaks, but, it’s important to seek out the story from an actual news site, (not saying all journalism is 100% truth all the time) but it helps you clarify if the story actually is real and not just a hoax.
Okay, so say paywalls are the answer and every paper in the land decides to put up barriers around their written words. There remains a problem as there will always be one site that can ever charge, the BBC as the licence fee we pay them includes all the services they offer us, to charge for online on top of this would spark outrage! Surely as long as there is some good, free news online people won’t be keen to pay for other news sites. Hence why Murdoch (Junior) majorly disapproves of the BBC’s free online access. So maybe as long as the BBC are around (er- forever?) the ‘everyone charging’ theory goes out the window.
Back to square one ay? This really is a bit of a mind bender.
To me this payment palava is like playing with a rubix cube. It’s frustrating because it feels like there is definitely an answer, we will get there eventually, but it may take a few wrong turns and a while before we do. But if we keep at it, surely a solution will eventually emerge.
**Glimmer of hope: I did learn from my psychology degree that there is never a strong relationship between A) intention and B) behaviour – you can’t predict B from A. So maybe people are all talk…. maybe when or if they do start charging, people will realise they can’t live without their much loved newspaper/magazine and show us the money!