Paid versus free

This old debate is back in the news, thanks to an article on the subject in The New York Times.

Doc Searls, in his usual fashion, points out what’s obvious to most observers but not to The Times.

You have readers, not “consumers.”

You have writing, not “content.”

Today’s paper is tomorrow’s fishwrap. If your paper is worth so much (and it is), and you want to charge for it, how about charging for fresh news, and giving away the stale stuff? Whether you do that or not, at least expose your archives. That way, Google will grant you the authority you’ve earned and deserved. Yes, you’d be leaving money on the table. But putting old editorial behind a costwall subtracts a value that matters more than money: authority. Exposing those archives will also give you a lot more advertising inventory to sell.

Steve Outing at Poynter says the whole media world is drifting to “free” and challenges newspapers to figure out ways to make money in such an environment.

The difficulty with the MSM and monetizing online is not in the figuring out. It’s in trying to replace one with the other while continuing operations at the former level. This is real weakness of traditional media and why upstarts without all that overhead are such a threat.

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