To charge or not to charge … that’s not the question

There’s a lot of discussion about whether e-paper sites should charge for online content. Reflections of a Newsosaur reports that a group of publishers recently, and very quietly, met to lay the groundwork for charging for at least some of their online content. This is going on at the same time the Associated Press has gone guns-a-blazin’ against what it sees as content piracy online (more on that on my next blog)

Revenue 2.0 takes a different approach, and says charging for online content isn’t the way to financial stability. It offers a four-step approach for e-paper sites.

I side with the very smart people participating in Revenue 2.0. I’ve said before that some in the industry are lurching toward a paid content model that we’ve already proved doesn’t work. Instead, we need another approach. While Revenue 2.0 is on the right track, we need to take another step.

We need to clearly differentiate our free and paid content, and use all of our digital platforms to push users, as best we can, to paid.

Here’s the problem. Many newspapers take their content and put it on all of their platforms. So what’s in the newspaper is also online and also on mobile.

That’s a mistake.

Newspapers readers are different from online users who are different from mobile users. They don’t want the same things and they don’t want the same amount of information. Newspaper readers want longer pieces and features. Online users want breaking news and updates. Mobile users want specific bits of information in small, 140 character bites.

What we should do is better differentiate between content, give our users the content they need based on platform, and push those free users to paid.

Online, let’s give short updates and breaking news, and push users to print for more details. If you take a look at your online metrics, you’ll probably see that users don’t spend much time with more in-depth pieces. So let’s stop giving it to them. Push them to the paying newspaper for that information.

Same with mobile. Users might use their phones for a specific sports score, a specific stock, a specific weather forecast. Figure out those three or so pieces of information they want, give it to them, and push them to paid.

There’s not one solution to the problems we face. The ideas from Revenue 2.0 are one piece. Differentiation could well be another.

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