Paying for news?

The massive move of media online, and the creaming of profits by international giants like Google and Facebook, have had a huge impact on traditional news gathering and distribution.

Good journalism costs money. It used to be subsidised by general advertising. That model has been demolished.

There is a resistance to pay for news online, in part because there are so many free alternatives – there is no compulsion to pay.

If the Herald or Dominion Post disappeared would most people on Facebook even notice?

Possibly not, but it would be to the detriment of the country, unless alternatives filled the news gap.

Should we pay for our news?

I don’t subscribe to any news service. I gave up my ODT subscription a couple of years ago. I gave up my Sky subscription last year.

I found that I was hardly reading the newspaper (ODT) so it wasn’t worth spending around $26 a month for. I got most of my news from a wide variety of sources online.

And I resented Sky forcing me to pay about $1000 per year when I only wanted a tenth of what they provided.

I haven’t subscribed anywhere else because it is too expensive. A single subscription might be good value if that’s where I sourced most news from, but I regularly read 20 news sources and forums, actually probably more than that. Full subscriptions for them all would be ridiculously expensive.

I would be prepared to pay for news if my money could be spread over multiple suppliers, and it wasn’t too expensive.

I think the biggest problem with traditional media is that they think they can apply their old model of one subscription to a vastly different, very fragmented media world. That’s where they are failing.

I don’t have an easy answer, but if news is to be paid for then a different way of doing things is required.

I never used to read the Herald or Dominion. Now Stuff and NZH online might provide me with about 10% of my news and information, so I’m not going to pay full traditional level subscriptions to both of them, and to a bunch of other providers.

They don’t seem to understand this.

Traditional news companies are too focussed on trying not to lose current subscribers paying full price, but they are gradually losing them and advertisers anyway. And they are not attracting business from part time readers and viewers.

It would be difficult, but a country as small as New Zealand could get radical and set up a universal system of micro payments for pay per view.

I don’t know if that could work.

But I know full subscriptions for fractional use, more obtrusive advertising (I usually just close pages that are too annoying and go somewhere else) and too much trash are failing and will always fail.

If news is too expensive or too hard to view I won’t go there.

If Fairfax and NZME had merged and set up a news pay wall demanding a full subscription I simply wouldn’t have used them.

I don’t actually need news. I can go on holiday and miss a week or two of news and survive quite easily. I can dump Sky and survive quite easily.

It’s actually good to not have to choose between a barrage of crap just to get a small amount of content I actually want.

If media companies want to survive and thrive that need to stop thinking through their traditional subscription lens and understand how us the readers and viewers see things.

The NZME/Fairfax merger didn’t appear to address this at all. They seemed to think if they were big enough they could demand full sized subscriptions, but they would still only be a fraction of what is available.

Available media has become very fragmented. Fragmented payments are probably the only way of getting people to pay what it is worth to them.

NZME and Fairfax merged would have been large, but would still have provided just a fraction of New Zealand’s news.

I would be happy to pay for good news and for good journalism, but not on traditional terms. I would want to spread it across multiple providers.

 

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48 Comments

  1. David

     /  May 4, 2017

    You have to wonder why they allow and even encourage Facebook/Google to aggregate their content where these 2 companies insert their own advertising. Sure they want as many eyeballs as possible but as you say Pete they need to re-think their models because getting as many customers as you can by giving away your product is daft.
    Sky won their fair use case recently which was brought against these media companies and would be a good basis of protecting their copy. If you want their news you go their websites and endure the adverts that fund the stories.

    Reply
    • Anonymous Coward

       /  May 4, 2017

      “You have to wonder why they allow and even encourage Facebook/Google to aggregate their content where these 2 companies insert their own advertising”.

      In Europe there have been lawsuits over that.
      https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20170308/15372336872/eu-parliament-dumps-link-tax-invites-news-publishers-to-sue-if-they-think-googles-making-them-broke.shtml

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  May 4, 2017

        Google ads are obligingly labelled as such so that one can easily avoid them. Adblock is wonderful and I willingly sent a donation to them.

        Reply
        • Anonymous Coward

           /  May 4, 2017

          Adblock accept payment from advertisers to let the adverts through.

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  May 4, 2017

            I never seem to have any, thank goodness, and have even rid myself of Microsoft’s ‘targeted ads’ (which seemed to be mainly ads for themselves and their products) There is a little grey strip at the side of the screen now, but I can live with that-better than having those maddening ads . The moving ones were totally infuriating and horribly distracting.

            Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  May 4, 2017

            Not quite. Nobody can pay Adblock for this, and they have very strict citeria about what they let through. Users still have the option of not allowing any ads appear, so that’s all right.

            Reply
          • Anonymous Coward

             /  May 4, 2017

            Ghostery is good too, it blocks all the trackers from google, facebook etc that trace your movements around the internet

            Reply
            • Kitty Catkin

               /  May 4, 2017

              They’d have a dull time tracking me, and I haven’t seen any sign of it, but I will look that up anyway-thank you.

              The email scams like FedEx must trap enough suckers to make it worth their while, well-known as these are for being scams.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  May 4, 2017

              Dunnit.

              The little blue ghost is now installed.

            • Gezza

               /  May 4, 2017

              Is there a good free adblocker for iPads? I had a look at the app store a week or two back but the reviews on the top choice ones went on about all sorts of dire effects installing them had caused for some people – they could’ve been fake reviews I guess.

            • Anonymous Coward

               /  May 4, 2017

              Ad blocking in IOS is hardware dependant for some reason, it only became available about a year or so ago.

  2. Missy

     /  May 4, 2017

    I subscribe to the Telegraph, it works out at roughly 40p per issue (approx 80cents), I can download it into the app for a digital version of the print issue, but also log in and get the updated stories through the day. For me it is an extension of the morning free paper City AM (City AM is edited by a former Telegraph Editor).

    I am not sure I would pay for either the NZ Herald or Stuff though, and there are many here I would not pay for either, but I do read a wide range of online news that is free.

    Reply
    • I would pay for NZH or Stuff if the price was right, but it wouldn’t be much.

      Reply
      • Missy

         /  May 4, 2017

        The market at work. It really depends what you are willing to pay for the product, and if the price is palatable a person will pay it.

        I am still not sure that it will be cheap enough for me to subscribe to NZ Herald or Stuff, but then again it might be, and I might change my mind on paying for it.

        Reply
        • Subscriptions versus pay per view is an important thing to weigh up too.

          Reply
          • Missy

             /  May 4, 2017

            True, though often in the long term subscriptions do work out more cost effective I think, though many are fooled into believing pay per view is cheaper, but as you view more you will pay a lot more than if you subscribed.

            Reply
          • Missy

             /  May 4, 2017

            This is where individual wants and needs come in to account, and media companies need to look at that as well.

            The more they can tailor it the better it is for the consumer, and the more people will be willing to pay for what was once free.

            Reply
    • I’m paying for the Telegraph, Guardian, Spectator and The Australian. I can feed for free at a plethora of agencies who provide news in a format I like, be that visual or attitudinal . I’ve got the Free National Radio or RNZ as they prefer these days. I’ve got my filter on to avoid the more gross of left wingism, but at least I’m not assaulted by adverts or ghastly talk back hosts or their callers. I’m Netflixing, Spotifying and when they start adding ads as SKY and other subscribe outlets do, then I’ll ditch them.

      Reply
      • Im still NBRinig too, but I hardly go there. It’s one I’ll ditch soon

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  May 4, 2017

          I have no qualms about blocking ads as I never buy anything from them and am unlikely ever to do so-it’s like having No Circulars on the letterbox, which I wish I had done long ago.

          I can’t believe how much less paper I have to put out now-it’s a fraction of what it was. We subscribed to two papers but I stopped those. The weekend ones were mostly ads that went straight into the waste paper unread.

          Reply
  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  May 4, 2017

    I pay for a mobile only subscription to NBR. I don’t believe a full sub is value for money for me. I agree that a shared subscription across multiple media would be far more attractive and is probably inevitable.

    Reply
    • I think that’s the only way of getting a lot of people to pay, and even that will be a hard market.

      Reply
  4. -D

     /  May 4, 2017

    Pete is totally on target. Most of us cannot afford regular subscriptions to the many online services — news, music, long-form journalism, etc. — that want our support. Being retired I no longer have much interest in much of the NBR that I used to subscribe to. But there are still some articles, mostly political or national interest, maybe 10-15 per a month, that I would pay for if there was a low enough price point.

    Mechanisms exist. Patreon, which is more of a crowd-sourcing platform, allows payment in a variety of ways including a fixed price per unit…say $1 per podcast downloaded or 25 cents per article. One payment portal could thus be rigged to cover many content providers creating a competitive market for the best material and authors. Pre-set expenditure caps allow a measure of budgetary control.

    It could be very good all around.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  May 4, 2017

      It would be wonderful if one could have the equivalent of prepay-$X credit paid in advance and then so much per paper or article. I would definitely have that if it was available. .

      Reply
  5. George

     /  May 4, 2017

    I can invent better fake news without having to subscribe to its chief NZ purveyors .

    Reply
  6. Anonymous Coward

     /  May 4, 2017

    It’s hard to feel much sympathy for them, the internet went ‘words and pictures’ in the early 90’s, they’ve had nearly 30 years to sort something out. That they’re just starting to cry about it in 2017 shows them for the dinosaurs that they are.
    They could have manipulated us to accept paywalls in that time, or lobbied for copyright changes to shut down aggregators, or totally reinvented the model of how news is distributed, or any number of things … but instead they sat back and waited it out, watched their empires collapse and sobbed in the rubble.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  May 4, 2017

      It’s not the same reading it online….I do it, of course.

      Reading books any way other than the old-fashioned way is most unappealing to me. I miss the feel and smell of the books and being able to go to the bookcases and look along to what I feel like reading today.

      Reply
      • Anonymous Coward

         /  May 4, 2017

        KIndles are great for reading trash on the train, no one knows.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  May 4, 2017

          I don’t read trash, I am too steeped in Eng Lit, but if I did, I wouldn’t want to read it on a Kindle. Paperbacks and those little Oxford classics (and their brethren) make wonderful handbag books. Mine is Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year. A wonderful book and utterly convincing as someone’s own account !

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  May 4, 2017

            (mumble) I do read Archie comics if any come my way.

            Reply
          • I have full bookcases in all bedrooms and a full wall of them in a library/sitting room. That said, I’m a convert to Kindle as it offers a way to cart one’s books while moving about and travelling as much as it saves on restricted wall space. It’s the same concept as getting one’s news on a website instead of carting around a broadsheet and putting up with mountains of newsprint discarded about the house. I still love my books and buy numerous reference books (mainly architecture, design, art and culture), but as I’m obliged to read at least 12 books a year for Book Club, I find myself increasingly buying digital for fiction.

            Reply
            • Kitty Catkin

               /  May 5, 2017

              I have had to install bookcases in my bedroom as I have run out of wall space elsewhere. What was the hall in this house was made part of the sittingroom and it is lined floor to ceiling. They then go around the corner and into the other hall and the kitchen-again, floor to ceiling. There are two bookcases in the spare bedroom….it’s an addiction ! There are even two shelves on the coffee table and books on the flat back of the sofa. Sigh…mine are mostly Eng Lit , history and bios, my late husbands were/are politics, theology and history, as well as a lot about Russia, so anyone who shares those interests will never want to leave if they stay in the spare bedroom,

              Don’t you hate it when someone asks if you’ve read them all ?

              ‘No, I keep them to hold the ceiling up.’

              ‘No-should I have read them ???? Why ???’

              Why do they think that one HAS books ? The first thing I look at in someone’s house is their books.

              I love a good whodunnit-the classic ones like Agatha Christie.

  7. David

     /  May 4, 2017

    “Good journalism costs money. It used to be subsidised by general advertising. That model has been demolished.”

    The only model that will work is for individual journalist to gain enough support for specific works and get subscribers or patrons for that work. The era of the news organisation is over.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  May 4, 2017

      I think there will be a market for a pay per view system operating across a range of quality news providers. There is no market for paying for a lot of stuff you don’t want.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  May 4, 2017

        All I’m going to do is wait & see what happens. The online Herald & Stuff both take forever to load & often crash my bowser, & when I go to their front pages I’m fed up with beng assailed with entertainment, whimsical & lifestyle trivia.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  May 4, 2017

          Try using a computer instead of a bowser. You’ll be waiting forever to get news out of one of those.

          (runs away very fast to avoid a smacking from Gezza)

          Reply
  8. Isn’t the ‘free market’ a wonderful thing …!!!???

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  May 4, 2017

      Yes, we don’t have to pay the media to manipulate our politics against our interests now.

      Reply
      • The big manipulators like NBR clearly exact their price though Alan …?

        Reply
        • Top-shelf ‘confirmation bias’ costs money …

          Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  May 4, 2017

          You could certainly add WaPo and NYT to the top of that list, PZ. But at least they are now only paid by those who support that manipulation. In the past newspapers like the Herald collected from anyone who wanted access to news and then used their monopoly to campaign for their own political allegiances.

          Reply
          • Yes … National …

            Reply
            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  May 4, 2017

              Various. Campaigned for Labour’s local government amalgamation in 1989. Campaigned incessantly for speed camera lunacy. Campaigned for pretty much everything that has created the Auckland housing problems. etc.

  9. Blazer

     /  May 4, 2017

    yes NZME and Fairfax should just compete until one or the other is defunct…thats the ‘free market’ paradigm.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  May 4, 2017

      They are competing in a shrinking market, B. Their real competition is outside it.

      Reply
    • David

       /  May 4, 2017

      It is a free market. The number of news sources you now have access to is staggering, thousands and thousands.

      Reply

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