I’ll buy news from a cute news vendor – Photo by Marco Monetti
Giving away news for free online has been called “the dumbest choice ever made by the media”. While that might be an exaggeration, I agree that giving away a product to the same people who were willing to pay for it, is a strange choice – and one that media execs have been attempting to remake over the past couple of years. But what about people who have never paid for news?
Back in 2006, Schibsted, a Norwegian media group with operations in 27 countries, was praised by The Economist as a great exception to the current media rule: despite giving away online news, they were making money during the transition to online. Today, all the Norwegian subscription-based Schibsted papers either make their readers pay for online news or they are about to start doing so.
I’ve been worried about this. Information should be free – not in the sense that it should cost me nothing, but in the sense that I should be able to access a variety of news sources, so that my view of the world is not coming from one source alone. If I have to pay per news source, I have an incentive to limit my news consumption, to let just one small group of people filter my world for me.
The great strength of online news is the possibility of aggregating across sources. I am willing to pay for that. I pay for NewsBlur, although it is far from my ideal RSS service. I would gladly have paid for Google Reader.
Today a representative of Schibsted came to Burson-Marsteller to discuss their ongoing digital strategies. I can’t go into detail on Schibsted’s future plans – but I can provide detail on what I want them to do.
So, Schibsted, here is the online news subscription I want to buy (as in with my money) from you:
All-I-can-“eat” news from all your Norwegian national and regional news sources. Complete round-the-clock access to a variety of news outlets, including their archives. Let me log in once and go beyond every paywall you control, at least when it comes to national or regional news.
Independent news sources. Integrate your advertizing and IT departments, but keep your editors and journalists independent. Access to different points of view – that’s the product I’m paying for.
No app necessary. Apps cost you money. I’d rather you spent the money I give you on journalism and making sure your websites work on every computer, smart phone and tablet I want to use them on. I already have an app for online news reading: a browser.
A news portal with a variety of ways to view the news. Including:
- Real-time everything you’ve got in reverse chronological order, a la RSS (or at least make sure my subscription includes this RSS feed)
- Sections by topic across media sources (tech from all sources, fashion from all sources etc.)
- A curated front page with stuff you/I/an algorithm think I might like
- Each individual news outlet’s own front page
(The viewing experience can work like Pinterest, where I can see “everything” or “everything within the category Women’s Fashion” or “Only stuff from the boards I specifically follow” + suggestions for boards I might like to follow)
Options. Let me choose what device I view my news from, and which of the views described above I see first.
Metered access to individual articles for outsiders. Let me share some of your journalism with my friends. Let me tweet and blog about your articles without sending my followers to a dead end. Don’t ruin the internet for me.
Let me opt out of print. I get that I might have to pay for it as part of the total package, but just don’t bring it to my front door if I don’t want it. I’m happy with my screens.
A decent price. I’m not going to pay the equivalent of X separate paper subscriptions for this. Get over yourselves. I’ve been consuming free (to me) news my entire life. First my parents paid for paper subscriptions. Then other paper subscribers paid for my free online news. Does that make me spoiled? Maybe, but who’s fault is that? You’ve spoiled me, but you’ve also made me more informed and given me a broader world view. Don’t take that away by putting an impossibly high price on it.
Not this. Photo by Sharla Sava
- I want to personalize my own online experience
- Journalists wanted – while print media declines
- Who will pay for free news? – The discussion back in 2009
- Newspapers die – long live journalists
- Gratis nyheter har en pris (Norwegian article I wrote on the price of free news)