A new survey from the Pew Institute found that — contrary to perceived notions — people would be willing to pay for online content. That is good news for news organizations that have been struggling to find a way to financially sustain themselves in the new media world order.
The survey shows that 65 percent have paid for online content — things like music and video downloads of applications. As time has brought a new dimension to online purchasing, the idea of paying for content online has slowly found favor among the masses.
Hopefully news organizations that have been champing at the bit for years to place paywalls on their sites won’t use this survey as their green light. While people will be willing to pay for content such as news stories, they’ll also be more selective as to what they choose.
That means that if you’re the only source of news in your area, or have the status of being “top dog” in your area, you may be able to successfully apply a paid program. The New York Times is planning such a thing in 2011, and they may have success with it because — after all — they are the New York Times.
But for the hundreds of news organizations that compete with one another, or in markets that are becoming more saturated with alternative news sources such as hyperlocal operations, this will be tougher sell. In order to make your pay plan work, you will need to offer online and through mobile apps something that people will want to pay for. And what worked for you in print or over the air most likely won’t cut it online.
Keep your customer in mind. For example, I currently have 10 news-related apps on my iPhone, ranging from the New York Times, BBC and USA Today to some local news outlets . If I were the type of user the Pew survey mentioned, then I would be willing to pay up to $10 a month for a subscription to these outlets.
But would I be willing to pay $100 a month of all of this? Not likely, so I’ll probably cull down my news choices to 2 or 3 of the most useful ones for me. So seven or eight apps would bite the dust from my iPhone. Now multiply that by the millions of mobile app users out there who would most likely do the same with their devices.
How do you keep from being one of the 7 or 8? You make your online product one that your customers need to go to first for their news fix. That means making it more than just an RSS feed or a listing of headlines. It needs to be dynamic, interactive and unique to your market. Most important, it needs to be there when your customers come to you.
That’s what people will pay for.
Is your organization there yet?