In the midst of seeming never-ending debate and argument about how the mainstream media will remain relevant and make money – when, for instance, The Times and Sunday Times now charge you to access news as well as other content on their websites – comes an entirely different approach to the paywall concept with The Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.
This nifty tool goes way beyond simply getting access to news content on The Guardian website. You can certainly do that as can anyone: The Guardian, like nearly every other newspaper, doesn’t charge for access to its content.
Where this gets interesting is that it enables you to access content from The Guardian online and re-publish it verbatim on your WordPress blog. In effect, you become an extension of The Guardian, and can value-add your own content to that of The Guardian’s that you re-publish.
Here’s an example of a story in the Guardian that I published here earlier today.
The screenshot above (click to see it larger) shows the edit post page in this blog’s admin: the page you see if you write posts directly in the blog. It’s populated with the 2000-word content of a story published in The Guardian, done automatically by the plugin’s admin page from a story that I chose from a huge list of content at The Guardian: screenshot below (click to see it larger).
The Guardian’s content is free to access and re-publish under very clear conditions: no changing any of the content including the ads. Yes, it’s ad supported.
So how or where does this Guardian initiative fit into the overall picture of consumers paying for access to content online?
Not anywhere obvious. News and other content on The Guardian website is freely available (ie, you’re not required to register to pay any subscription fee) although you do need to register if you want to comment on anything on the site.
The Guardian is an open book, so to speak, not competing with The Times and Sunday Times paywall models; nor, for that matter those long established pay-for-access models used by the Financial Times and The Economist.
So where does it fit?
You need to think of a newspaper like The Guardian not simply as a “digital newspaper” any more. More than any other mainstream medium I can think of, The Guardian’s approach to the thorny topic of consumers paying for content has moved in a different direction, more to do with opening up the paper to the web than looking at how to monetize content by persuading people to come to your website to access that content.
That’s according to The Guardian’s Matt McAlister in an interview with GigaOm published on July 2:
[...] the rationale behind both the open platform and the WordPress plugin is the same: to allow other sites and services to make use of the newspaperâ€™s content, and at the same time to enlist them as partners in monetizing that content by carrying advertising (The Guardian also has platform partners who share the revenue from their services with the newspaper). The paper has had thousands of developers sign up to implement the open API.
At a time when newspapers like The Times of London and the Sunday Times are implementing paywalls [...] and other newspaper, such as the New York Times, are working on their own pay restrictions, The Guardianâ€™s move toward creating an open platform is unusual. But despite the newspaperâ€™s losses, Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger has said that an open strategy is the key to the newspaperâ€™s future.
I like the idea of what The Guardian is doing with this WordPress plugin. I can imagine using it to re-publish content from the newspaper online if that content is interesting enough that I can add some commentary or opinion to the post that would appear here.
It’s not clear to me yet how the monetization aspect works – do I get a cut of revenue from clicks on the ads? – but I’m happy to go along with publishing for the time being. After all, I benefit too by having some great content from a reliable and trusted source to share from this blog.
So from a content publisher’s point of view, instead of trying to bring consumers to your content, you enable your content to go to consumers via outlets other than your own.
Maybe there’s room for every idea that gives people what they want (compelling content)Â and that they might be willing pay for, one way or another, so that content publishers get what they want (revenue).
It could be that simple.