To free or not to free: Media’s big question

This week, media moguls met to discuss how old media survives or changes in the new media world. Needless to say, they don’t seem like they’re close to "getting it:"

Wired editor Chris Anderson argues in his book ‘Free’ that many companies, with media at the forefront, could build bigger and better businesses around the notion of giving away their content for free.

Many executives in Sun Valley would not agree. ‘Free’ — supported by advertising — is not a new concept. After all, broadcast TV is free but its dominance has been eroded by cable channels and its future as an advertising outlet is bleak.

Newspapers owned by News Corp and others are fervently examining news-bundling pricing models to seek ways to get users to pay to read news online. One consideration may be to bundle different properties along vertical lines, such as business and sports news, for a monthly fee.

Far from free, what media moguls would want to preserve on the Web and mobile platforms is the dual-revenue stream from subscriptions and advertising.

Dual revenue streams sounds fine, but the New York Times was discussing making its online content available only to those why pay $5 a month. That’s not really going to work, at least for me.

I love the New York Times. I get it in my inbox every morning. And I read it. But if I had to pay $5 a month to access its online content, you can bet I’d go elsewhere. The Times isn’t that good.

So I’m not sure subscription-only content is the answer. I wonder how many others here agree with me.

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