Finding a viable pay-for-content model

PaidContent UK reports some of the details of a Harris Interactive survey they commissioned which asked what people will do if their favourite online free source of news started charging for access to that content.

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The results surely won’t surprise anyone: 74% of those surveyed said they’d find another free source of news online.

Put it another way – just 5% of those surveyed said they’d be willing to pay for access to that content.

Food for thought for those mainstream media companies contemplating putting some or all of their content behind the pay firewall:

[…] “This does not look like good news for a pay model in a competitive environment,” says Andrew Freeman, Harris’ senior media research consultant. “As long as free alternatives exist, consumers will turn to them for their daily news information, meaning heavy losses in terms of audience figures for those that charge. It remains to be seen whether the news industry will take the leap and begin charging for that which has been free for so long.”

There’s another angle to this, though. I don’t think it’s only about free versus paid at all: it’s far more greyscale than black-and-white.

Isn’t it about how you as a consumer perceive the value of the content and related aspects, eg, who the creator of that content is?

If you think it’s compelling enough, you’d be willing to pay for it, wouldn’t you? Maybe even for the news. And what about the micropayment idea rather than a blanket cost? I like that idea a lot although more findings from the PaidContent UK/Harris Interactive survey shows my view as the minority one.

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I wonder who’ll be first to figure out a model that works, presents a viable business opportunity and that consumers actually like.

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