Content: Readers must want to pay, not have to pay

Two excellent blog postings came across my laptop this week in regards to online content:

1.Alan Mutter’s “free suggestions” on paid content, which notes several models that have been tried and failed.

2. Web wunderkind (maybe still a wunder, but less of a kind today) Rob Curley says that repurposing your web site to fit new technologies (in his case, the iPad) is not the way to go if you want to gain audience and, potentially, new revenue streams.

Both Mutter and Curley highlight what we’ve been shouting for the past few years: Simply charging for the “same old, same old” isn’t going to cut it. The industry shot itself in the foot in the ’90s by failing to recognize the potential of the Internet. Publishers can not go back and say “we blew it, so now you must pay for our mistakes.” That may only hold up in markets where the content provider has no immediate competition, but that does not guarantee someone could come in and undercut the incumbent.

What people will pay for is something that they believe is unique — an experience that they cannot get anywhere else. Many newspaper readers remain loyal to that product because it is an overall sensory experience to them. The tactile feel of the paper, the ability to sit back and relax anywhere, the discovery of something new while looking for something else. That experience cannot be repurposed to the web, so we need to find new ways to do that.

So many news organizations have brought on ‘innovative’ people, yet with few exceptions there has been no major innovation that has attracted audiences. Time Inc.’s Sports Illustrated demo last December has that experience potential, and I hope they do adopt it for their iPad format. Curley’s Las Vegas Sun format has great potential as well. But the  industry needs to make readers want to read their products — only then will they be willing to pay for it. 

Remember, readers won’t pay for content if they have to. They will pay if they want to.

You must make them believe they want your content!

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