Honor system

We all know that lots of publishers are trying to determine if users will pay for the content they create. The Boston Globe has just announced it’s in the field surveying its customers on the topic.  The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Financial Times are among newspapers exploring how to reap revenue through pay systems.

But just as there are publishers exploring pay walls, there are plenty of people who don’t think that strategy will work. The debate over who’s right will rage on for a while.

So here’s a thought: Why not charge on the honor system?

Radiohead tried that approach a couple of years ago, and by all media accounts, it was a success. Yes, I know there’s a big difference — Radiohead is a popular music group and users are used to paying for music.

But I think the concept can be translated to the media business. No one can duplicate the valuable content local publishers provide to their community. Why not appeal to that community and ask it to support the news gathering efforts through whatever payment it sees fit? Remind the community that without those paid journalists, the information it now takes for granted might disappear.

How much revenue would that generate? I have no idea. I don’t know what percentage of a community might pay, and I don’t know how much they might pony up. I don’t know any of that because no one has tried anything like this before.

Maybe someone will.

The views expressed on this blog are mine alone


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