Will news be free forever?

It will be if you read Le Figaro, according to PaidContent UK as the French newspaper prepares to launch its new content-access service on Monday.

[…] instead of hoisting up a paywall around all its news content, Le Fig is going for a freemium model, charging only for extras like newsletters, a digital copy of its printed edition, social media features – and booking you a dinner table. The new features come in three tiers, but spokesperson Antoine Daccord tells paidContent:UK: “News will be free forever…”

It seems similar to the Financial Times’ model of free access to some content but you pay for what the FT considers as premium content. One difference the FT has is that you have to register after a certain number of accesses during a month, although some content is still free, notably news content.

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The FT is going deeper with different approaches including a micropayment system as part of its plans to introduce day passes for content access, according to managing director Rob Grimshaw in an interview with Journalism.co.uk last month (and there’s additional commentary about the FT’s pricing model plans by Judith Townend).

nyt-timesonline
All this is an entirely different model to that of The New York Times and News International (publisher of The Times and The Sun, among others) with their uncompromising you-pay-for-everything approach to getting at the content they publish online, including news.

Freemium works well if the FT is any indicator (I’m a paying subscriber, incidentally). But if people are willing to pay for access to all the content they want, including news, you might build a viable business if all your numbers add up.

Isn’t it that simple?

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Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. David Phillips

    Nice round up Neville.
    Of course, there is the issue of Internet Porosity. As content is published behind pay walls it will get out. Once out the combination of Real Time Search and semantic analysis will mean that all news will assimilate the pay wall content in the next and inexorable version of the news.
    News wants to be free.

    • neville

      Agree, David. Hence, if you as a content publisher offer that content on a pay-for-everything basis, including news content, you’ll probably need to have something pretty compelling that will convince sufficient numbers of people to be willing to pay for it.

      But that’s about business models rather than the porosity you speak of. I don’t think anyone has a single answer to this (will there every be a single answer?), hence all the experiments we’re seeing.

      Looks like freemium in one form or another is the current lead contender for monetizing your content.

    • neville

      Thanks, Ellee. I had seen this when it was published last month. It’s an excellent lecture, I agree.

      In essence, everything is changing. Again.

  2. David Phillips

    Ellee, Thank you for taking me to the Alan Rusbridger The Hugh Cudlipp Lecture . It is now compulsory reading for my students at Gloucestershire and Lisbon Universities.

    Not least among the gems is the CP Scott quote “The world is shrinking. Space is every day being bridged. Already we can telegraph through the air or the ether, from Penzance to Melbourne and tomorrow we shall be able to talk by the same mechanism. Physical boundaries are disappearing … What a change for the world! What a chance for the newspaper!”

    But I think we should take out this quote from Rusbridger:

    “There is an irreversible trend in society today which rather wonderfully continues what we as an industry started – here, in newspapers, in the UK. It’s not a “digital trend” – that’s just shorthand. It’s a trend about how people are expressing themselves, about how societies will choose to organise themselves, about a new democracy of ideas and information, about changing notions of authority, about the releasing of individual creativity, about an ability to hear previously unheard voices; about respecting, including and harnessing the views of others. About resisting the people who want to close down free speech.”

    I do not want to detract from a well considered lecture but the grit in the oyster is the Guardian’s role in supporting the NLA. This is inconsistency between rhetoric and practice and does the Guardian no favours.

  3. Bruno Amaral

    Something I still hope to see from newspapers is a service that sends me real time news, based on my interest and context. When it comes down to it, I don’t simply want another source of information, I want one that cuts the clutter and helps me overcome the filter failure.

    Platforms can also be an interesting route, if I had a mobile phone I would be ok with paying for a subscription or app that would give me an improved access to the newspaper.

    • neville

      Thanks Bruno. Your point perfectly illustrates the overall situation: if a content publisher makes content (of whatever type) that want available and in a way that you as a content consumer will be willing to pay for, he may have a viable business model if the numbers are right (numbers meaning sufficient quantities of people and, therefore, revenue).

      Do all the numbers have to be huge or are we talking about niches? Who know. The Micropayment model is about niches.

  4. Free The News!

    I did try and comment, but I’m not sure if it let me. I just wanted to say that people should be able to have access to news as and when they need it! FREEdom of speech, and all that.

    Ellen.

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