'One great gap separated the advocates or charging for online content from all others, and that was its lack of recognition, its lack of respectability in the eyes of the public, and even in the most advanced circles.'
Then, in April, Rupert Murdoch stepped forward and said readers dependence on free content had to change and, lo and behold, media executives from all over the place stepped forward to praise the virtues of paid content and unveil plans to start charging for online news. At least my newsreader was abuzz with news about media execs all of a sudden coming out as staunch defenders of paid content in all the markets I follow.
A bit like my newsreader has been abuzz this week, though now with reactions to Murdoch's announcement he plans to charge for all his news websites by next summer - most of them decidedly negative: he's mad, he's wrong, what on earth is he thinking, it can never work etc. I find I can't bring myself to get too excited about having that debate again (though I did love this comment by Adam and this post by Charlie Beckett ), so I'd rather just deal with the facts: it might not work, but it will happen. I think Murdoch-biographer Michael Wolff says it well in his comment:
...[Rupert] is going to do the thing he has always done: buck convention, offend sensibilities, and not pussyfoot around. "I believe that if we're successful, we'll be followed fast by other media,” Murdoch said yesterday—which has pretty much been his method of operation in the media business. By force of will and clarity of position, he defines the world.
Now, take Mecom for instance. In Denmark the pan-European media group headed by one of Murdoch's former henchmen, David Montgomery, is ready to roll out a system for micro-payments on its news sites as early as 1 September. The company's Danish CEO, Lisbeth Knudsen, promised they would only charge for unique content, not for general news, but said they were hoping to develope a system for charging for online content that could also be used in other Mecom countries (in Danish). Of course, despite everything (correct me if I'm, wrong, but I seem to recall Montgomery and Murdoch had some kind of fall out) Montgomery lists Murdoch as the businessman he admires the most, but other media companies have voiced similar plans, so I think we'll see plenty of more paid content experiments in action soon ...
Will I pay? Slightly different debate. Basically, I'm all with what Chris Anderson said here. I'd pay for content I can't live without, but mainstream news site currently offer very little I can't. News Corp., for one, has very little, if any, content that is specialist enough for me, my primary focus being the European media market. Mecom's Danish flagship, Berlingske Tidende, has a pretty decent media section, so perhaps ... if cost cuts don't limit its output more than it already has...
( Oh, and I found the opening quote here, and only made some slight edits to it, after I - struck by how vogue paid content all of a sudden became with media execs - googled "coming out" )