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FT enters the newspaper paywall debate September 22, 2009

Posted by kewroad in Journalism, new media.

In a recent interview John Ridding, CEO of FT, stated that “it would be very hard to sustain an effective news organisation without paid-for news content”. The article makes the point that FT has not only managed to keep their readers during the economic downturn, but they have also successfully introduced a charge for digital content, and upped the price of the subscription.

The message here seems to be that publications wishing to make money from their online content have to make sure this is relevant and topical enough for their readers to be willing to pay in order to access it. Some people who are not willing to pay for full access may be willing to buy a particular article or snippet of information. So, the question is can any online publication charge for digital content?

Perhaps the FT can. Financial sector executives form a large proportion of their user base, and many of these people rely on FT content in their day-to-day work. Another factor is that a large amount of the FT’s subscribers are companies whose budgets are very different from those of individuals. Finally, the global reach of the FT is an advantage as people from all across the globe access their online content.

John Ridding does concede that “it may be easier for a specialist publication like the FT to charge”, but then continues by saying that “other publications need to identify these opportunities”. He may be stating the obvious here and many magazines are currently analysing what they could start charging for. The issue many are facing in today’s world of online information sharing is how to ensure their content is unique enough to demand a premium price?

Whether the solution turns out to be localised news unique to particular publications, or sponsored articles, the goal will be to work out a way to make enough money to stay afloat in the online market. And do this without compromising the quality of the coverage, or scaring off the end users.



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