"What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is." J. Danforth Quayle

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Paying for Content

I don't remember how I became aware of Andrew Sullivan, probably via the New Republic, but I have been reading his blog for about a decade. I have jumped with him from his home at Time, to the Atlantic, to his present residence with the Daily Beast. I log on several times a day, and get alerts via Facebook and Twitter.

A week or so ago, He announced that he and his crew were going to take the giant leap of going it alone. After considering adding advertising as a revenue source, Andrew (may I call you Andrew?) Decided to seek the support of his readers. It took us less than a minute to sign up.

We were not alone. Many joined in, often giving more than requested. By the next day they had collected over $400,000.

If you weren't aware that the publishing industry is in a wild state of flux - almost a free-fall - you must have been in a stasis chamber since the turn of the century. Paying for content isn't just in the future, it is now. The only question is what business model(s) will prevail.

I have no problem paying for content. I have access to the complete digital edition of the Buffalo News (such as it is) because I am a print subscriber. I am not likely to subscribe to another paper, print or digital. The same is true for Time magazine. I read it cover to cover, whether in print or in digital form.

There are times that you just want to read an article. It It may be once in awhile or a few times a month. Is limited free access a LA the New York Times the answer? How much do you charge after the free period? The whole subscription fee?

It is limited access or pay per document that is a problem for me. I was burned early and it still smarts.

The first was the LA Times. Long before he published his book How to Read a French Fry, I was seeking an article Russ Parsons wrote for the paper. The topic was beans. Parsons was one of the first to debunk the myth that salting the cooking water of beans was a no no. I didn't know the date of the original article - just knew of its existence.

I did a search by whatever search engine was popular back then and was directed to the Times archives. After reading the précis I decided to purchase the article. What I got was perhaps a sentence more than the précis. Instead of the article I was looking for; I got a blurb referring back to the original article. $2.50 down the drain.

This happened one more time with a different newspaper - I think the Buffalo News. Talk about turn offs. I haven’t done it since.

There is an answer to this which I am sure will be revealed over time. Pundits more skilled than I have addressed it. Many possibilities have been presented and discussed. Like most things each has its good things and bad.

My best suggestion: something akin to a prepaid phone card. Purchase access in increments, perhaps in $10 blocks. The charge only applies when you access content. To make it perfect for me it should include at least one opportunity to “return” an article when it doesn’t turn out to be what you expected.

In any event it will be interesting to see how this evolves.

Image swiped from http://www.thestrategyweb.com/

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