I wrote the other day of what would happened if the news was owned, and how it might stifle the free flow of information, and although the concepts are sound my predictions will not happen because regardless of what governments legislate with the collusion of big media, it can not, and will not stop people telling each other and sharing the latest news with friends and family.
So will the walled garden approach work? it might for some, but for the large majority of newspapers, they are not dealing with an unique product, they are not value adding and competition exists within their own industry that mandates that they don’t charge for online access. So can you compete with free?
You can, but you have to change the model, not a rehash for the digital world but a complete shift in thinking is required.
Now I know what your thinking, haven’t we always paid for news? It might surprise you to hear that no, not at all, it's the advertisers that have been paying for you to be informed along with the slight hope that you may buy product X that is predominantly displayed next to a story on “ lack of political accountability” on page 3. This was is also true of other media like television and radio, but their woes are a story for another day.
Have you ever heard the expression "news sells", and in deed it does, it just not news that their selling. So what of the coins you hand over to the news stand everyday? It certainly feels like your paying for the news and yes you would be right except your paying for a cup filled with news, and not the news, Its the news that is encouraging you to hopefully read the advertising . This type of cup needs to be filled (printed) and distributed to the news stand, they expect some reward(profit) for getting it to the thirsty patrons and this is what you pay for not the coffee but the cup and the cost associated with getting the cup to you.
So what has changed and why, well as with all things, technology has moved on, the old style cups you used to buy are still available at the news stand fresh daily, but the problem with this type of cup is it's a one time only model only, you needed to buy a new one everyday if you want fresh coffee.
Now around 20 years ago some one invented a new type of cup called the computer, and someone else also invented a new coffee called the Internet. The best thing about this cup is it lasted a lot longer than a day, and the new coffee offered up an all you could drink option as well as what ever flavour you liked, but unlike the old cups of the past, the coffee never got stale, hit refresh and it was as if you had just been to the news stand, and this trick worked over and over.
At first it took people awhile to accept this new cup, it was a little slow to fill, and not all the flavours were available straight away and it cost a whole lot more but the people who tried it liked it, they told their friends and family who then also tried it and slowly the new cup won favour. The more people who purchased the new cup meant that it got cheaper to produce and more and more companies started making newer and better cups, also more people started offering newer and better coffees and so it went.
At first the people who made the old style cups were not worried after all they had history on their side, but soon they started to give away free coffee too, while still filling the old style cups and sending them off to the news stands, but these were not as popular as they once were and the advertisers started to wonder where all the coffee drinkers were.
It did not take them long to find them, and you know what else they found? A new and better way to connect to their customers, except this time there were many more cups than before and much more coffee than ever before, what they really needed was a way to target individual coffee drinkers, but how? They did not need to worry because there was a new way to do that called GOOGLE and Mr GOOGLE knew everything about all the coffee and who was drinking it, it did not take long for the advertisers to ask Mr GOOGLE for help and its seems everybody else liked him too, who needed to deal with Newspapers when Mr GOOGLE knew everybody.
My point is, Newspapers are failing because the world has moved on, they need to find a new cup, improve their cup or adapt to the new world, corrupting my cup won’t cut it.
Oh and if you think this is unfair, before the computer, if people wanted to type a letter they used a typewriter. Where are all the typewriters now? What of the people who sold them? What of the people who fixed them? They moved on and adapted and I think that newspapers have to realise that the world has changed and they need to as well, time will tell who learns the lessons that time has repeated, but charging for News I suspect will not be a lesson learned of success.
Oh and one last thing, nothing lasts forever so I hope Mr GOOGLE has a plan, because theres a new guy in town called Mr TWITTER and people are smitten.